Oregon’s prohibition of marijuana has ended.
As of Nov. 4, 2014 Oregon became the third state to legalize Marijuana for recreational use. Measure 91 will go into effect on July 1, 2015, permitting Oregonians 21 and older to own up to 8 ounces and up to 4 plants. While many may be excited with measure 91, it still raises many questions and concerns that lawmakers are still trying to sort through.
Readers should not confuse Oregon’s recent legalization of cannabis with it’s longstanding medical marijuana policies. Measure 67 made Oregon the second state to legalize medical marijuana, after California, in 1998. “For a lot of things medical marijuana is not the solution, but I’ve been pretty happy with it,” said Mckenzie Ryan-Oakes a SOU student who has his medical marijuana card for chronic pain. Ryan-Oakes is one student who has reservations about the legalization of recreational marijuana. Saying that he is anxious about giving out a medicine you previously needed a prescription for, to anyone who asks.
This brings up an interesting point. If cannabis is made available to everyone, wouldn’t users become dependent and abuse the substance?
According to a 2014 report by the National Survey on Drug use and Health, after it was officially made available to the public monthly marijuana use by Coloradans increased by an estimated 22 percent. That’s 530,000 people. While there is little data on previous years of use, the number is a large one. This doesn’t necessarily mean people are dependent or abusing marijuana. It could be that since it’s legal now it is easier to track its use. There is no evidence marijuana is physically addictive. But it does point to a possible trend worth watching for here in Oregon.
While Ryan-Oakes has his reservations, Robert, an SOU student and marijuana enthusiast who wished to remain anonymous, remains optimistic about legalization. “Everything you are going to get is going to be a higher price, but that is because its going to be a medical grade quality. Now its all being tested for contaminants which means its all good and clean.” Robert goes on to explain that before when recreational smokers would buy from a dealer, they had to take them at their word that it was high quality. He explained “before the new laws went in place you could go to a dispensary and sell homemade hash or shatter without having to test it.” Now however, marijuana products will have to be tested and regulated before being sold. Resulting in a safer, higher quality product, Robert believes.
“The big plus is it is going to drive down crime,” says Ryan-Oakes, a sentiment that Robert shares. In a report released by the Oregon State Police, in 2012 there were 12,808 arrests for marijuana related crimes. Of those 11,000 were arrested for possession with intent to use.
Chances are marijuana will be more expensive–the state will regulate and tax. “Taxation is taxation. No one wants to pay it but it is what it is,” said Robert. Indeed taxation is going to be a major factor in Measure 91. According to the Marijuana policy project, currently marijuana flowers will be taxed at $35 per ounce, leaves at $10 per ounce and plants at $5 per plant. All of this will be in addition to the retailers “competitive price.”
Those hoping to buy a joint at a local bar will be disappointed. According to the Marijuana Policy Project, marijuana products can only be purchased at retail stores with a marijuana license. Businesses will have to apply to the Oregon Liquor Control Commissioner (OLCC), and if accepted have to pay a $250 application fee in addition to a $1,000 annual licensing fee. Just keep in mind that smoking in a public space is still going to be illegal.
Still not everything is decided yet. Public hearings are on-going around the state. One of the big concerns will be out of state companies wanting to establish themselves in Oregon as it’s a prized growing region. Local farmers are hoping instead to protect their interests and keep grows local. Ultimately the the Oregon Liquor Control Commission will be writing policy about Oregon’s new marijuana laws.