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Published in the City Club of Portland Bulletin, Vol. 97, No. 5, Aug 4, 2014

In November 2012, Washington and Colorado legalized recreational marijuana use. If Oregon voters approve Ballot Measure 91 this November, Oregon will become the third state to legalize marijuana for recreational use, and will be using its own new and experimental regulatory system. Your committee was charged with reviewing the Measure, researching potential benefits and risks, and recommending whether the Measure should be adopted.

Majority Summary

The majority of your committee concluded that the Measure is well-written, comprehensive and could be implemented successfully. The Measure takes advantage of current state agency infrastructure and provides workable methods for the licensing, taxation, and regulation of recreational marijuana.

The majority finds that current marijuana laws unnecessarily limit adult Oregonians’ freedom to consume a product that is less addictive than legal products such as alcohol and tobacco. Furthermore, by legalizing recreational marijuana Oregon can encourage other states and the nation to adopt similar changes.

The majority concludes that the social costs of the current system are too high. Crime can be reduced through regulated legalization, consumption can be discouraged through education and advertising, economic opportunity will increase through added revenue and job growth, and the Measure can provide a national model for effectively regulating the recreational and medical marijuana industries.

Recommendation: The majority recommends a yes vote.

Minority Summary

There are significant uncertainties regarding conflicts with federal law, and the Measure fails to sufficiently address the problems it purports to solve. While adopting the proposal will expand the volume of marijuana grown and distributed, it will not curtail the black market. The proposed tax structure will provide an unreliable and possibly inadequate revenue stream. An unlimited number of licenses can be issued and key employees are not subject to scrutiny and restriction. The initiative appears driven not by a legitimate urgency to remedy flaws in the legal system, but rather an opportunistic attempt to take advantage of shifts in the political winds of public opinion.

Recommendation: The majority recommends a no vote.

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