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OR: Lawmakers seeing green on pot legalization

By   /   November 29, 2012  /   9 Comments

 

Cash crop: Could pot’s tax-revenue potential drive  legalization?

By Shelby Sebens | Northwest Watchdog

PORTLAND – Among the the arguments in favor of legalizing marijuana, among the least persuasive, apparently, is civil liberties. When pot becomes legal in Washington on Dec. 6, proponents will be touting the windfall in tax revenue and tourism dollars.

That could make for a compelling argument in Oregon, where a similar initiative, the Oregon Cannabis Tax Act, failed on Nov. 6 and money is short for such programs as education.

“The idea of being able to regulate the market and to tax it and to bring in revenue to pay for services seems a no brainer to me,” said state Rep. Peter Buckley, D-Medford. “We do it with alcohol, we do it with a number of products.”

Buckley and state Sen. Floyd Prozanski, D-South Lane and North Douglas Counties, think there’s still a chance for legalized recreational marijuana in Oregon. They plan to create a working group for the session beginning February to study Washington and Colorado’s new pot laws and to analyze more than a dozen proposals being pushed in Oregon — from those that mirror Washington’s law (where the drug will be tightly regulated) to more libertarian initiatives.

There’s still the possibility that the federal government will crack down, of course, as it has with medical-marijuana operations in California, Washington and Oregon.

In the meantime, Oregonians may take their dollars across the border, bringing a whole new meaning to the long weekend in Washington. It wouldn’t be hard: Police don’t plan to check travelers for weed.

“There’s no plan to sit on the borders,” Lt. Gregg Hastings of the Oregon State Police said.

Harvard University Economics Professor Jeffrey Miron estimates Oregon could raise about $36 million a year, depending on the level of taxation. Paul Stanford, who wrote the weed measure that lost in Oregon, said his group estimated legalization could bring in about $200 million a year.

Washington officials have estimated their state will bring in $2 billion over five years.

But it’s unclear how much revenue legalization would generate in Oregon. Miron, who has written extensively on the savings of ending what he calls the prohibition of marijuana, says Oregonians don’t need to leave their state for pot: medical marijuana is already legal in Oregon and 60,000 people are cardholders, allowing them to legally grow and possess a pound and a half of weed at a time.

Even Oregon law enforcement officials acknowledge that weed isn’t hard to come by.

“Marijuana is called weed for a reason,” Clatsop County District Attorney Josh Marquis said, adding that he questions how many people will register to sell the drug legally. “Marijuana can be grown by virtually anyone anywhere. Why in God’s name are they going to then say, ‘I’ll register with the government.’”

Marquis said marijuana in Oregon has been largely decriminalized for about 40 years. Possessing less than an ounce is a misdemeanor carrying a fine.

He thinks that current lax pot regulation is a big reason Oregon voters shot down Measure 80. The measure won only 46.9 percent of the vote.

“I would hope some of these legislators would have a little more respect for what the voters say,” Marquis said of Buckley and Prozanski moving forward.

Stanford argues his measure lost because of a shortage of campaign advertising; he’s organizing for another vote, in 2014. Buckley he’ll use 2013 to gather all sides behind an initiative, pro and con, in time for the 2014 legislative session.

Stanford is optimistic. The Oregonian Editorial Board, a day after the election, pushed the legislature to consider pot legalization, and Buckley and Prozanski are both majority party members with leverage. Prozanski is chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee and Buckley is Co-speaker Pro Tempore of the House.

Buckley, who is from southern Oregon where the hemp fields are plentiful, said he doesn’t like the black market and that the state is missing out on revenue.

“I think that, on a positive side, we have the ability to grow a remarkable marijuana crop in the state of Oregon,” he said. “It could be a great agriculture crop for southern Oregon.”

Contact Shelby Sebens at Shelby@NorthwestWatchdog.org, or follow her on Twitter @ShelbySebens. For more Northwest Watchdog updates, visit NWWatchdog on Facebook and Twitter.

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  • freetheleaf

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  • http://www.facebook.com/worzi Gari Worzalla

    They couldn’t legally “sit on the border” and arbitrarily stop peaceful citizens as we have “privileges and
    immunities”, “The Citizens of each State shall be entitled to all Privileges and
    Immunities of Citizens in the several States.” As far back as the circuit court ruling in Corfield v. Coryell, 6 Fed. Cas. 546 (1823), the Supreme Court recognized freedom of movement as a fundamental Constitutional right. In Paul v. Virginia, 75 U.S. 168 (1869), the Court defined freedom of movement as “right of free ingress into other States, and egress from them.”[1]
    However, the Supreme Court did not invest the federal government with
    the authority to protect freedom of movement. Under the “privileges and
    immunities” clause, this authority was given to the states, a position
    the Court held consistently through the years in cases such as Ward v. Maryland, 79 U.S. 418 (1871), the Slaughter-House Cases, 83 U.S. 36 (1873) and United States v. Harris, 106 U.S. 629 (1883).[2][3]

  • DragonTat2

    I believe Oregon’s legislation failed because of the wording that indicated unlimited growing, and unlimited possession, of cannabis. Folks shy away from that Zero to Unlimited option more often than not.
    Washington state’s legalization doesn’t allow for any home growing, though medical prescription holders laws are not affected, and can grow up to 15 plants.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000284815662 Benjamin Fike

    Here in Oregon,
    Anyone over the age of 21 can walk into A State run Liquor store and buy as much Alochol and as many packs of Cigarettes as they want, or produce their own home brewed Alochol up to I believe something like 200 gallons per year without A license… Treating the adult use of Marijuana any Differently then we treat the use of Alochol in our Society is pure Hypocrisy!

  • ozlanthos

    Actually I think that Measure 80 failed because when they did an ad or two, all of them concentrated on the legalization of “Marijuana”, and virtually NOTHING about Industrial Hemp! Everybody concentrated on getting high without a single thought that the vast majority of the funds generated from industrial hemp.Once again Oregonian farmers, (and the conservative base that they identify most closely with) let their fears of the way other people choose to use their freedom over their own bodies to deny themselves (and the rest of Oregon) the FINANCIAL WINDFALL to be had from farming Industrial Hemp! If Measure 80 would have passed, farmers here would have been hiring more people solving our unemployment issues, and displaced both wood, and grass seed as our primary textile crops! The income taxes from this new source of revenue would have DWARFED the taxes gleaned from “Marijuana” sales! That is why it was necessary to allow for unlimited private growth. Ultimately that is really the only fair way to do it. It will guarantee that the product on the shelves will always retain a reasonable price and a higher quality in the legal market, and ensure that the public will always retain the potential of becoming a licensed grower/supplier.

    It comes down to trust in the free market. There will be people that abuse it (selling to minors, driving while intoxicated…etc) however, there are laws against it for alcohol so I see no reason we couldn’t do the same with Cannabis. I mean really, I have the ability to brew my own beer or distill my own spirits, but I have yet to do so. As long as it is cheaper for me to buy it at the store, I’ll continue to do so…

    -Oz

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1682215075 Saundra Romero

    This would bring so many jobs to Oregon. Our college entrepreneur’s club will be starting a business based on hemp products as an educational initiative. The government propaganda against this crop definitely worked, but it is all based on lies. Today those who oppose legalizing this crop and regulating some uses are standing in the way of green solutions and recovering our economy.

  • homegrownsmoker

    As much as I like a good doobie, HEMP would produce many jobs, restore the soil, provide new businesses and jobs. Hemp is the big issue, not pot.

  • Bill Griggs

    At first the laws will be more restrictive than alcohol laws. That’s just the way it’s going to be to get enough support. In time after we see a real legal marijuana industry, the laws will change some to be more like alcohol laws. These limits on how much people can have are there because so many worry that if people can have pounds and pounds of it they’ll be selling it outside the system, that organized crime would still be making piles of money. Those fears will subside in time, but there will probably always be some limits with respect to things like how much people can grow, just like there are limits on how much beer or wine homebrewers can produce.

    Oregon’s legalization initiative was terrible. The preamble looked like it was put together byu marijuana enthusiasts mainly by cutting and pasting from pro pot websites, all this crap about George Washigton and artificial hemp preparations from Silesia with the implication that was hashish and all that. It was just pitiful, something mainly only dedicated stoners could like.

    The problem is that while it may not seem this way to dedicated stoners, only a small minority of people actually smoke pot. If a majority vote for a legalization initiative the vast majority of that majority will be people who don’t even smoke pot, and the truth is that most of them aren’t really pro-pot, think it’s a stupid vice, etc. They just realize that the laws aren’t working and we’re doing more harm than good trying in vain to keep up the ban on pot. They don’t want a free-for-all though. They need to see tight regulations to be comfortable with voting for such an initiative.

    If the legalization initiative was more like those in Washington and Colorado, the money would have come in and a whole lot more people would have voted for it. It would have passed. Why didn’t the money come in? Because it was an obvious loser and people with lots of money don’t like throwing it away. They want to invest wisely in something that has a good chance of passing. Why didn’t more people vote for it? Partly it was because not much money was spent getting out the vote, but mainly because the thing was poorly written and it did not contain enough restriction and limitations to assuage a many have about legalization. There were many people who would have voted for it if it was more like the initiatives in Washington or Colorado.

  • Bill Griggs

    Hemp is a useful crop our farmers ought to be able to put in rotation, but the hemp angle isn’t going to help nearly as much as you think when it comes to legalization. There is already a worldwide hemp industry. It’s legal in most industrialized nations. China is the biggest producer, but the industry isn’t exactly taking off. It’s a relatively tiny industry and not even those crafty Chinese with their dirt cheap labor and vast farmlands can turn it into a big money maker.

    The problem is that much of what you read on pro hemp websites is greatly exaggerated wishful thinking. Yes, there are an awful lot of potential uses for hemp, but usually there is something cheaper/better that can be used instead for a particular purpose. This is not unlike the situation with George Washington Carver who came up with something like 600 or a 1,000 uses for the humble peanut, but it’s only used for a tiny few of those purposes today.

    If you look at the existing worldwide hemp industry you will see that demand is limited, and not that many acres are being grown compared to other crops because of that. Canadians learned the hard way when they legalized hemp and overplanted and a lot of farmers lost their shirts when they couldn’t sell their crops. It’s not being used on a commercial basis for biofuels anywhere because there are better feedstocks for existing methods of production. It’s only used for textile production in countries with dirt cheap labor because it is expensive and labor intensive to process. It sure as heck isn’t putting a dent in the paper industry either over wood pulp. It’s just not quite the “wonderplant” you’d think it is from reading Jack Herer inspired pro hemp websites.

    If legalizers focus on the hemp angle their claims fall apart when the opposition pulls out the real world numbers and the legalizers look like spaced out pie in the sky hippies with unrealistic pipe dreams. They have no credibility.

    Hemp legalization will come with marijuana legalization eventually. Those opposed to marijuana leglization don’t really care about hemp, except that they see it as a backdoor approach to marijuana legalization. The big fight is over marijuana legalization. Medical marijuana has served its purpose in the overall legalization fight. Now it’s time to go through the front door and tackle the big issues. Hemp should be part of the argument, but putting all or even too many eggs in the hemp basket is a bad idea. The oppostion will tear legalizers apart with real world data if they do that.

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