Pubdate: Wed, 10 Feb 2016
Source: Mail Tribune, The (Medford, OR)
Copyright: 2016 The Mail Tribune
Note: Only prints LTEs from within it's circulation area, 200 word count limit


A state task force has recommended that Oregon create an independent 
institute for research into the medical uses of marijuana. The 
reasons for doing so are sound, and lawmakers should follow the 
recommendation. But not right away.

The task force, created by the 2015 Legislature under the auspices of 
the Oregon Health Authority, issued its report Monday. The report 
recommends creating the Oregon Institute for Cannabis Research. The 
institute would conduct studies both within the university system and 
outside it, and would raise private funds as well as relying on a 
dedicate source of state funding.

Official research on marijuana has been stymied for years because the 
federal government restricts access to the plant itself and to 
funding. The only federally sanctioned research uses marijuana grown 
at a federal facility at the University of Mississippi, and gaining 
access to it is complicated and difficult.

The task force report argues that Oregon is well positioned to become 
a leader in cannabis research because voters legalized medical 
marijuana in 1998 and the medical industry is well established. Other 
state have authorized research, but none has a dedicated funding source.

The funding is the biggest reason to hold off for at least a year 
before launching this new endeavor. The task force has recommended 
allocating tax revenue from recreational marijuana sales to provide 
the public funding portion of the institute's budget.

That sounds logical, but voters who legalized recreational marijuana 
directed the tax money to schools, state and local law enforcement, 
mental health and alcohol and drug treatment and the Oregon Health 
Authority. And the state has only just started collecting the tax, so 
there is no way to know how much will be collected, especially since 
the Oregon Liquor Control Commission has not yet issued licenses to 
recreational marijuana outlets.

It's unlikely the idea of creating a research institute with 
yet-to-be-collected marjiuana taxes will gain much traction in this 
year's short legislative session, and that's a good thing.

Lawmakers should wait until the 2017 session, giving the state's 
fledgling marijuana industry time to get established before siphoning 
off any tax revenue.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom