Pubdate: Sat, 10 Oct 2015
Source: Oregonian, The (Portland, OR)
Copyright: 2015 The Oregonian
Author: Ann Lininger
Note: Ann Lininger, a business attorney, represents Lake Oswego and 
Southwest Portland in the Oregon House of Representatives. She 
co-chairs the Oregon Legislature's marijuana legalization committee.


When recreational sales of marijuana began this month, I was thinking 
about my dad. He's a major reason I became a state lawmaker and have 
been helping implement Oregon's new marijuana law.

During the 1980s recession, Oregon's natural resources sector tanked. 
My dad stopped taking a salary at our family's rock crushing business 
to help keep the company afloat. Mom warned that if the business 
closed, we might have to leave the Rogue Valley, where our family has 
lived for generations. As kids, my cousins and I rode down Main 
Street in Ashland's Fourth of July parade, perched on the edge of a 
truck from M.C. Lininger and Sons, tossing out packets of candy that 
looked like gravel. Our business was a source of income and pride for 
the whole family.

M.C. Lininger and Sons survived that deep recession, but by the time 
the housing market bounced back, 48,000 jobs in the Pacific 
Northwest's lumber sector had disappeared. Lots of related jobs 
vanished with them. I never want Oregon families to have to go 
through that again. Our state needs a diverse jobs base.

Right now, city councils and county commissions across Oregon are 
deciding whether to allow legal marijuana businesses. They should 
keep in mind that legal marijuana offers a new way for people to earn 
a living from the land. Legalization could create a jobs boom in 
southern Oregon, a prime location for outdoor marijuana production.

The legal cannabis sector in the United States grew by 74 percent in 
2014, according to ArcView Market Research. Once legalization goes 
nationwide, the sector is projected to exceed $36 billion in annual 
value. That's larger than the organic food business, and it could 
mean lots of good jobs for Oregon.

Business is already booming, with family-wage jobs that provide 
benefits and can't be outsourced. In July, United Food and Commercial 
Workers Local 555 announced its first-ever union contract for an 
Oregon marijuana business. Workers at Stoney Brothers start at $15 an 
hour. Meanwhile, Oregon's Women Grow chapter in Portland has become 
one of the state's leading centers for female entrepreneurs. This 
matters, because women own only a third of Oregon businesses; nearly 
one in three working single mothers lives in poverty.

The emerging industry needs a chance to thrive so it can drive out 
the cartels and outcompete street dealers. But legalization must also 
be implemented in a way that addresses reasonable community concerns. 
Police must have the support to detect impaired drivers and make sure 
retail outlets are not selling cannabis to kids. At the same time, we 
must help the owners of legal marijuana businesses access banks, 
which are reluctant to work with companies that deal with a Schedule 
I controlled substance. By teaming up with officials from other 
states facing the same need, we can help persuade Congress to 
reschedule marijuana. We have a strong ally in Oregon Rep. Earl Blumenauer.

Oregon must also welcome outside investment and expertise. We should 
avoid extreme investment limitations and residency requirements. 
Misguided protectionism will stunt the growth of emerging companies, 
making it harder for Oregon businesses to compete in the legal 
national market that is coming. We should let market forces work, 
coupled by reasonable tracking and reporting requirements to prevent diversion.

Finally, we need to contain the environmental impacts of marijuana 
production. Oregon's new Task Force on Cannabis Environmental Best 
Practices will consider incentives for efficient energy and water 
use, as well as other strategies.

The to-do list is daunting. But if we get the new industry right, 
Oregon could become for marijuana what Napa Valley has become for 
wine. Our economy would be more robust, and my father would be proud.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom