Pubdate: Thu, 09 Apr 2015
Source: Oregonian, The (Portland, OR)
Copyright: 2015 The Oregonian
Author: Jeff Mapes


SALEM - A proposal by the Senate's top Republican to begin 
recreational sales in Oregon on July 1 has attracted a lot of 
interest, but there appears to be daunting issues that would prevent 
it from becoming reality.

"The concept is good," said Sen. Ginny Burdick, D-Portland, co-chair 
of the Legislature's marijuana committee, "but practically speaking 
there are obvious issues."

Senate Minority Leader Ted Ferrioli, R-John Day, earlier this week 
proposed that recreational sales start in medical marijuana 
dispensaries when possession becomes legal on July 1.

"One of the problems we have is that on July 1, Oregonians will be 
able to possess, grow and gift marijuana...but they won't be able to 
legally buy it," Ferrioli said in an interview Wednesday. The EO 
Media Group/Pamplin Media Group Capital Bureau first reported on his 
plan, aimed at speeding retail sales that may not start until late 2016.

The idea quickly attracted interest, particularly among many of the 
marijuana advocates who helped persuade Oregonians to pass the 
Measure 91 marijuana legalization measure last November.

"I do think it makes a lot of sense," said Anthony Johnson, the chief 
sponsor of Measure 91. He said it would allow the state to begin 
collecting tax revenue and provide a legal way for recreational users 
to buy the drug.

However, Rep. Ann Lininger, D-Lake Oswego, who co-chairs the 
marijuana committee with Burdick, said there are a number of issues 
standing in the way.

Lininger said it would provide a sudden bump in sales at medical 
marijuana dispensaries that would disrupt that market. It would also 
interfere with efforts by the Oregon Liquor Control Commission to 
have a careful roll-out of recreational marijuana sales aimed at 
avoiding some of the problems seen in other states.

The OLCC has not yet developed rules on a wide variety of issues, 
including such things as regulating the dosages and packaging of 
edible marijuana and setting up a system of taxation.

Ferrioli's proposal would also have to win a majority vote in both 
houses of the Legislature and be signed by the governor since it 
modifies Measure 91.

"It's an interesting reversal of roles that Sen. Ferrioli is pushing 
for marijuana to be more available on July 1," Lininger added, "and 
I, who campaigned for Measure 91, have more reservations."

Ferrioli's eastern Oregon district largely voted against marijuana 
legalization, and he's previously noted that many of the communities 
he represents would prefer not to have marijuana sales outlets at all.

Ferrioli said Wednesday that after listening to weeks of testimony, 
he's become more concerned that the state needs to move quicker to 
provide an alternative to the black market once marijuana becomes 
legal on July 1. He noted that the federal Department of Justice has 
told states legalizing marijuana that they need to work to curb the 
black market.

In addition, Ferrioli said last week that his confidence in the 
liquor commission "in their ability to administer this program is 
rapidly diminishing."

In his latest proposal, Ferrioli said recreational pot sales would 
eventually migrate to OLCC-licensed facilities once the agency 
finished its work. OLCC Chairman Rob Patridge has said he expects 
retail sales to start in late 2016.

Tom Towslee, an OLCC spokesman, said he didn't have any comment on 
the merits of the proposal.

"It's not our issue," Towslee said. "We don't regulate medical 
marijuana and [Ferrioli's proposal] is not part of Measure 91, which 
is all we're focused on right now."

Burdick said the committee will hold a hearing on Ferrioli's proposal 
but said she wasn't sure when it would be scheduled. The idea is 
"getting a lot of attention," she said, adding, "We may not be able 
to pull it off."

Oregon would not be alone in having a lag between when possession 
becomes legal and retail sales start.

Washington and Colorado adults were allowed to possess marijuana just 
weeks after voters approved legalization in November of 2012. But 
retail sales didn't start until January of 2014 in Colorado and until 
July of that year in Washington.

In Washington, D.C., voters last year allowed adults to possess and 
grow small amounts of marijuana but Congress has stopped the city 
from proceeding with retail sales. Marijuana advocates there are 
distributing marijuana seeds and encouraging city residents to grow their own.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom