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The Promise of Pot
After seven years, a look back at what was promised with legal pot.

In November of 2014, Oregon voters approved the sale and use of recreational marijuana. The law was scheduled to go into effect in January of 2016, but Governor Kate Brown -- unable to wait for enforcement and taxation bureaucracies to prepare -- signed a bill in October of 2015 allowing legalization early.

The Promise

Supporters of legalized marijuana lined up to push the benefits of legal pot. As a regulated, legal industry, the black market would disappear, as would arrests for the victimless offense of using marijuana. Taxing the newly legal pot would bring in dollars that would more than cover regulation and enforcement.

In a voters' pamphlet statement, Oregon Congressman Earl Blumenauer (D-Portland) said "Our marijuana laws don’t work and exact a terrible cost in tax dollars, law enforcement priorities and people’s lives. I’m working in Congress to reform marijuana policy -- and we are making progress at the national level -- but it is in the states that the most constructive change has been happening."

Blumenauer argues in favor of Measure 91. "It strictly regulates its production, distribution and sale through the Oregon Liquor Control Commission. It provides more protection for kids than the current black market system. Right now, it is easier for a middle school student to get a joint than it is for them to get a six pack. It taxes marijuana, with the proceeds going to schools, state and local law enforcement, treatment and substance abuse education."

Anthony Johnson, one of the Chief Petitioners for Measure 91 said, "What will Oregon look like after Measure 91 passes? We will have taken money and power away from the black market and drug cartels. We will have provided protections for neighborhoods and kids. We will have funded schools, public safety, prevention and mental health."

Kris Olson, former Chief Federal Prosecutor in Oregon, who was appointed by President Bill Clinton -- "I didn't inhale" -- said, "I learned firsthand how our current approach to marijuana has failed. By keeping marijuana illegal, we enrich organized crime and violent drug cartels. At the same time, we distract police, who spend too much time arresting and citing people for small amounts of marijuana.

The Result

2021-23 is projected to see an estimated $319 million in marijuana tax revenue distributed to drug treatment and recovery, schools, cities, counties, state police and mental health.

Despite the promise of a reduction in organized crime, in 2018 the Oregon Legislature passed SB 1544 which established the Illegal Marijuana Market Enforcement Grant Program to assist local governments with costs incurred by local law enforcement agencies in addressing unlawful marijuana cultivation or distribution operations. While it funded $8.25 million in enforcement grants from 2018 to 2023, it also quietly expanded the medical marijuana program.

Marijuana related crime -- especially in Southern Oregon -- has mushroomed. Accordingly, spending on enforcement has also increased. The 2021-23 budget for IMMEGP activities will total $26 million with the additional $20 million General Fund proposed in the omnibus budget bill. During the recent special session, the Oregon Legislature unanimously approved SB 893 which requires prioritizing financial assistance to local law enforcement agencies to partner with community-based organizations in order to address humanitarian crisis associated with unlawful marijuana cultivation or distribution operations in awarding grants through Illegal Marijuana Market Enforcement Grant Program.

Oregon kids seem to have avoided the enforcement trap. According to a research paper published by the US Drug Test Centers In only two states do more than 10% of adolescents regularly consume marijuana, and it should be noted that even though recreational marijuana is currently legal in both Vermont and Oregon, during the collection period for this data, it was legal only in Oregon, and it’s not legal in either state for children to consume weed.

This might be a key to understanding some of the reasons for the failure of Oregon schools.


--Staff Reports

Post Date: 2021-12-28 19:30:26Last Update: 2021-12-28 20:26:29



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