Bans Or Legalization? Discussing Pot In Oregon's Capitol

Feb 12, 2014
Originally published on February 11, 2014 4:58 pm

Oregon lawmakers are considering two very different approaches to regulating marijuana this month.

One bill would allow cities and counties to ban medical marijuana dispensaries within their borders. Another bill would ask voters to completely legalize recreational marijuana.

An Oregon Senate panel could hold a preliminary vote on both measures Wednesday.

Medical marijuana dispensaries are popping up all over Oregon, even though technically they aren't actually legal. Oregon lawmakers nodded to that reality last summer and approved a bill to regulate the storefront operations.

But some municipalities object to the rules that will take effect in March about where and how the shops can operate.

"We are about to roll out next month the most unregulated marijuana dispensary program in the nation," says Rob Bovett from the Association of Oregon Counties.

Bovett's group backs a bill that would give cities and counties broad powers to ban dispensaries.

Medical marijuana advocates like Geoff Sugerman say that’s a bad idea. He says patients should have the right to access medical marijuana no matter where they live. And he says the pending rules for the roll-out next month are more than adequate.

"We believe that these are very strong regulations that are going to put Oregon in a very good position moving forward," says Sugerman.

And moving forward for some pot advocates means moving forward with recreational marijuana as well.

"It is time to regulate and tax cannabis similar to how we do our wine and beer industries in the state," says Anthony Johnson, who is heading up an effort to get a measure on the November ballot.

Some Oregon lawmakers agree, or at least look at Washington and Colorado and say the writing is on the wall. But those same lawmakers say the legislature, not pot advocates should write the ballot measure.

The Oregon Sheriff’s Association isn’t happy about that.

"Sheriffs oppose a legislative referral simply because we believe it adds the color of support, if you will, of the state of Oregon," explains the group’s lobbyist, Darrell Fuller.

Still, this November, Oregon voters might see two measures on the ballot: One written by the legislature, and one penned by the advocates.

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