Pubdate: Wed, 17 Jun 2015
Source: Oregonian, The (Portland, OR)
Copyright: 2015 The Oregonian


It took barely 10 minutes for members of the Legislature's Joint 
Committee on Implementing Measure 91 to zip through complex 
amendments to a voluminous and complex bill that will, if approved by 
the House and Senate, establish the new day for legal marijuana in 
Oregon. It would take a few years to know whether it really works to 
the satisfaction of Oregonians.

The slam-it-through approval by the committee on Monday night was 
long and contentious in the preparation, however.

The amendments represented a response by committee members to a 
late-in-the-game defection by Sen. Ted Ferrioli, R-John Day, on 
behalf of eastern Oregon voters who disapprove of legally available marijuana.

The compromise amendments to House Bill 3400 thus take a successful 
statewide measure and apply special treatment to those counties whose 
votes were 55 percent or more against it by allowing their governing 
bodies  without a public vote  to ban recreational pot shops and 
medical marijuana dispensaries. Some 15 counties had 55 percent or 
more opposition to Measure 91  and all are east of the Cascades, 
represented entirely or in part by Ferrioli.

The opt-out approach can work but needs close watching for 
recalibration down the line. While it is disappointing that some 
terms of Measure 91's implementation might vary by region with 
HB3400's passage, the proposed law at least preserves the ability of 
Oregonians to hold a vote to overturn any decision by their local 
governing body to ban pot. Committee member Rep. Ken Helm, 
D-Beaverton, correctly signaled caution after Monday night's blitz 
vote: "We've entrusted local officials with a lot. Voters did not 
want that. If local governing bodies prejudice themselves against 
otherwise legal businesses, I will be watching."

Ferrioli had offered a glimpse of his thinking, if not legislatively, 
at a recent Big Idea forum conducted by the editorial board of The 
Oregonian/OregonLive. At that "Get pot right" debate, Ferrioli closed 
out his comments by urging a pro-pot, Portland audience to allow 
folks who are opposed to legal marijuana time to adjust.

People, Ferrioli had said of his home constituencies, "tighten up" if 
forced to do something they don't want to do, "so please be patient." 
Think Prohibition and dry counties, which opted out of legal alcohol 
and in subsequent years would make booze available.

But politics is a contact sport, and Ferrioli's recent pleas were 
heard by his lawmaking colleagues because the influential 
Republican's support was viewed as essential to successful 
implementation of Measure 91.

Committee members wisely judged that time is running out to get the 
state's pot program off the ground.

At Ferrioli's suggestion on Monday, it waived off further assessments 
of revenue impacts of the bill to send it to lawmakers straightaway 
for consideration. Among other things, the bill brings strict 
accountability and production limits to medical marijuana, to be 
overseen by the Oregon Health Authority, and requires clear labeling 
of marijuana potencies and dosing. The bill also requires product 
testing for pesticides  a smart requirement in light of a recent 
series by Noelle Crombie of The Oregonian/OregonLive that many 
medical marijuana products showed contamination.

The Legislature should say yes to HB3400 knowing full well that when 
Oregonians passed Measure 91 last November they expressed a clear 
desire to create a legal and competitive marijuana marketplace in a 
timely fashion, with legal personal possession beginning July 1. With 
the bill's passage, the Oregon Liquor Control Commission, unable to 
write regulations in the absence of a statutory framework, will be 
able to accelerate implementation, ensuring licenses are granted and 
stores open up in 2016.

Committee co-chair Sen. Ginny Burdick, D-Portland, recently told Jeff 
Mapes of The Oregonian/OregonLive that HB3400, with its amendments, 
"allows cities and counties to ban (stores and dispensaries) but not 
lock it in stone," arguing that elected officials could more easily 
change course later on than if voters had supported a ban. This 
sentiment best captures the compromise brought upon the committee by 
Ferrioli  resulting in a bill that committee co-chair Rep. Ann 
Lininger, D-Lake Oswego, described on Monday as hard-won, if 
imperfect, and good enough to get the job done. "We've been a phoenix 
rising from the ashes many times in this process," she said.

True enough.

But best that all phoenixes rise and fall in Salem now than later on, 
as legal recreational marijuana takes hold alongside a more tightly 
regulated medical marijuana program in some Oregon communities but not others.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom