The Economic Revolution

An economic revolution is hitting Jackson County with the legalization of recreational marijuana coming this July. The Oregon liquor control commission (OLCC) representatives and community members gathered inside the SU for an open listening session on the evening of February 18 to address questions and concerns about how Measure 91 will take effect in Southern Oregon.

As the audience files into the Rogue River room, they are directed to a wall lined with posters where they have been asked to tally issues they would like the OLCC to address during the session. Topics included how Measure 91 will be implemented in the areas of growing, advertising, licensing, retail outlets, testing, and packaging.

On a blank poster, audience members drafted their own concerns. One read, “Please leave medical program alone,” and another, “Previous residency required to get licensing.”OLCC

Business owners, investors, and medical farmers tend to comprise most of the audience according to Tom Towslee, the Communication Director of the Oregon Medical Control Commission. This is the fifth OLCC community forum he has helped host this year.

Townslee explains that two main concerns that recur at forums are regulations for protecting children and protecting economic stakes.

When asked about the economic impact of marijuana for Jackson county the bald-headed Towslee took off his spectacles, paused and commented, “Boy you know I’ve seen all kinds of numbers and if I gave you one it’d be wrong.”

Uncertainty seems to be a theme, “I think voters just voted to legalize marijuana but once you scratch the surface, a little you find that it is very very complicated about how you actually go about regulating an industry that has been illegal for a long period of time,” Towslee reflected.

Townslee spoke out about a fear of marijuana Walmarts. Commenting on the fear of big business prospects with legalization in Jackson county he said, “I think that there’s a certain anticipation on the part of some, but most of the people we’ve been hearing from see this as sort of a mom and pop boutique kinda industry.”

He continued, “I think there’s a general belief that if you’re going to sell marijuana then you’re probably also going to sell the stuff that goes with it. Papers, paraphernalia, pipes, t shirts with bob marley on it.” Townslee laughed and went on, “But I don’t think anybody has any great expectation of getting rich. But they certainly can make a living.”

The OLCC will begin accepting commercial licenses next January and retail stores will begin opening in late 2016.

Feedback from listening sessions like this will help guide the yearlong public rulemaking process for Measure 91 regulations.