Pubdate: Thu, 11 Jun 2015
Source: Oregonian, The (Portland, OR)
Copyright: 2015 The Oregonian
Author: Rick Steves
Note: Rick Steves lives in the Seattle area, writes European travel 
guidebooks and hosts travel shows on public television and public radio.


Oregonians deserve a huge congratulations for winning marijuana 
legalization in 2014. Measure 91 won by a decisive 12-point margin, 
and the Beaver State has become a national leader in marijuana 
reform. I had the privilege of working with the "yes" campaign to 
make the case that a better approach to marijuana is to regulate it, 
legalize it and tax it. And the people of Oregon agreed.

But now that marijuana reform has won, some people are trying to 
change the law in a way that's at odds with what Oregonians voted 
for. Most of these proposals are bad policy because they would 
encourage the black market that Measure 91 was designed to quell.

For example, one bill being debated by Oregon lawmakers would make it 
easier for cities and counties to opt-out of marijuana legalization. 
That defeats the intended purpose of Measure 91: to take the crime 
out of the marijuana equation, move sales to a regulated market and 
to refocus law enforcement on stopping violent crimes.

Another bad idea is to have a high sales tax on marijuana. This makes 
legal marijuana so expensive that illegal pot sold on the street 
becomes profitable again. Oregonians don't want criminals on the 
streets selling marijuana. In a free, regulated and reasonably taxed 
market, the trade will be controlled and the black market dealers 
will be out of business.

Oregon politicians ought to keep their hands off a law that such a 
large majority of Oregonians approved. Give the state a chance to get 
the basics right first - like labeling, testing, childproofing and 
packaging standards - before making last-minute changes that could 
disrupt implementing Measure 91 effectively. This is the natural 
maturation process of the similar laws passed in Colorado and 
Washington (my state) in 2012, and I believe this is the smart 
process for Oregon too.

On the other hand, there are bills relating to marijuana that 
complement (rather than undercut) Measure 91 and are in line with the 
peoples' will. Representative Ann Lininger has proposed an amendment 
to House Bill 3400 that would make it easier for Oregonians currently 
burdened with nonviolent marijuana convictions to get their records 
expunged. Given the state's enlightened attitude toward criminalizing 
marijuana, that's the right thing to do.

As we established well in the months before Oregonians voted for 
Measure 91, the implementation of marijuana laws has been unfair and 
racist-it's not primarily targeting rich white people ... it's poor 
people and people of color. For too many people, a marijuana 
conviction can send their life into a tailspin. It can lead to 
someone being denied a job, a house or a loan.

It makes no sense burden people with criminal records-especially 
considering the inequity of how this law was enforced-for possessing 
a substance that will, in a few weeks, be legal. Oregonian lawmakers 
ought to even consider taking it a step further than just 
expungement. They should make it easier for people to get out of 
prison if they were convicted of a marijuana offense that will soon 
be obsolete. Keeping them behind bars breaks apart families and 
wastes taxpayer money.

Across the U.S.A., Oregonians inspired citizens concerned by the 
tragedy of our nation's misguided war on marijuana. Oregon voters 
sent a clear and bold message that's proving to be a wise message. 
Now, we have a responsibility to protect the law Oregonians 
overwhelmingly voted for while making it easier for victims of the 
war on marijuana to get back on their feet. Please raise your voices 
for this important issue. The entire nation is observing.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom