Pubdate: Sat, 13 Jun 2015
Source: Oregonian, The (Portland, OR)
Copyright: 2015 The Oregonian
Author: Jeff Mapes


A sweeping bill to regulate the burgeoning marijuana industry in 
Oregon is back on track after legislators agreed to make it easier to 
ban retail pot sales in almost all of the state's eastern counties.

Leaders of the marijuana committee agreed to give a powerful eastern 
Oregon lawmaker language that would allow local governments in his 
region of the state to ban medical and recreational marijuana shops 
without voter approval.

Rep. Ann Lininger, D-Lake Oswego and co-chair of the House-Senate 
marijuana committee, said Friday that the compromise "is not my top 
choice," but she said it was necessary to prevent the entire 
legislative package from falling apart.

The new legislative language proposed for House Bill 3400 would allow 
local governments to ban pot sales in counties where at least 55 
percent of voters opposed the Measure 91 marijuana legalization 
measure in 2014.

As it happens, 15 counties had that level of opposition -- and all of 
them are east of the Cascades. Senate Minority Leader Ted Ferrioli, 
R-John Day, who earlier this week demanded that local governments get 
an easier path to banning marijuana sales, represents all or part of 
eight of those counties.

Ferrioli was traveling Friday and could not be reached for comment. 
But his spokeswoman, Caitie Butler, said the Republican leader had 
indeed signed on to the deal.

"Barring a catastrophe, I think they'll be moving forward with it," she said.

Sen. Ginny Burdick, D-Portland, the other co-chair of the marijuana 
committee, said it makes sense to let elected officials prevent legal 
sales in areas where there is clearly strong opposition to the drug.

"It allows cities and counties to ban them but not lock it in stone," 
said Burdick, arguing that elected officials could more easily change 
course down the road than if their voters supported a ban. She 
compared it to the post-Prohibition era when many localities around 
the country continued to ban the sale of alcohol. Gradually, the 
number of dry counties dwindled as the culture changed.

Burdick noted that cities and counties in other areas in the state 
could also ban marijuana sales under the legislative agreement -- if 
they get approval from their voters. Voters in those 15 eastern 
Oregon counties could also overturn a pot ban by collecting the 
signatures needed to take the issue to the ballot.

With an apparent deal in hand, Burdick said she now hopes to move the 
marijuana measure out of committee early next week. The panel also 
wants to move ahead quickly on a bill that would levy a sales tax on 
recreational marijuana sales instead of the per-ounce harvest tax 
included in Measure 91.

At this point, House Bill 2041 calls for a 17 percent state sales tax 
and a provision allowing localities to add an additional 3 percent tax.

The issue of local control over marijuana has been a difficult one 
for legislators. More than 140 cities and 26 counties blocked medical 
marijuana sales after the Legislature allowed a one-year moratorium 
that expired May 1. Many local governments are continuing to ban 
these dispensaries or adopt stringent requirements that make them impractical.

Measure 91 says that only voters can ban the sale of marijuana in a 
city or county. But city and county lobbyists argue that language 
won't stand up in court, in large part because the measure tries to 
force local governments to accept a business that is illegal under 
federal law. Retail sales for recreational marijuana may not start 
until late next year, although possession will become legal July 1.

"That (federal illegality) puts a different layer on things," said 
Burdick, adding that it helped drive her to accept disparate rules in 
different parts of the state.

Burdick also said that Anthony Johnson, the chief sponsor of Measure 
91, was involved in negotiations over the latest compromise and 
played a role in setting the 55 percent threshold.

Seven counties voted against Measure 91 with less than 55 percent 
voting no. Douglas County was less than one-half of 1 percent below 
the threshold.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom