GRANTS PASS, Ore. (AP) — Rebuffed by voters, proponents of legalizing recreational marijuana use in Oregon will take their cause to the Legislature, but persuading lawmakers will be a longshot.
Rep. Peter Buckley, co-chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, said Wednesday there will be a discussion of why Measure 80 failed, but odds are against the Legislature coming up with something like it to refer to the voters — even if it were patterned on the successful measure passed in Washington state.
However, there may be support for state licensing of growers and distributors of medical marijuana to address concerns over growers selling their excess on the black market, said Buckley, D-Ashland.
“A lot of us have the shared goal of making the medical marijuana more professional and transparent,” he said. “I don’t want greed to kill the medical marijuana program.”
Buckley said another measure is being drafted that would direct the Oregon Health Authority to research which strains of marijuana are most effective against specific ailments.
Voters turned down Measure 80 by 55 percent to 45 percent. Even with no campaign, it passed in Oregon’s most liberal counties — Multnomah, Lane, Benton and Lincoln — but lost everywhere else. Even counties were medical marijuana use is highest, such as conservative Josephine County, voters turned it down.
“The patients are afraid and the growers want to keep the gravy train going,” said Paul Stanford, the owner of a string of clinics where patients can get a doctor to authorize medical marijuana cards and chief petitioner of Measure 80.
Marijuana advocate and attorney Leland Berger said bringing medical marijuana under control is just where legalization supporters want to start.
There are three or four legislative proposals being developed by supporters to more strictly regulate growing and distributing medical marijuana to address concerns over growers selling their excess pot on the black market, he said.
Berger conceded there were legitimate concerns over the specifics of Measure 80, such as the makeup of an oversight committee. But supporters hope that with 45 percent of voters saying yes to Measure 80, even with virtually no campaign, lawmakers will agree that the logical next step would be to apply new regulations over medical marijuana to all marijuana.
“The fact is, that there are probably around 300,000 or 400,000 Oregonians using cannabis recreationally and that is not going to change,” said Berger. “There are places that distribute medical cannabis, and that is not going to change.
“The question for the Legislature initially, and if they don’t take action for the people, is are we safer, and is it better for the community, if this is allowed to happen in an unregulated fashion, or should we adopt some reasonable regulations to control it,” Berger said.
Oregon’s marijuana legalization measure failed while measures in Washington state and Colorado passed.
Stanford blamed the loss on the lack of financial support from national marijuana advocacy organizations, and that lack of support on negative news coverage of him. But the director of one of those organizations said Stanford’s measure was poorly written and early polling showed it had little chance of winning, though support appeared to build closer to election day.
Instead, the political arm of the Drug Policy Alliance in New York threw money to the Colorado and Washington campaigns, which offered much more responsible measures and better chances of winning, said executive director Ethan Nadelmann.
Nadelmann said taking the issue to the Legislature was a good strategy, but he expected that once a better measure is put before voters, more along the lines of those in Colorado and Washington, it will pass.
“I anticipate all sorts of people will be wanting to do this in Oregon in the next two or four years,” he said. “I will do all I can to see that Oregon gets to vote on an initiative like the ones in Colorado and Washington.
“These were about responsible regulation of marijuana. These were not pro-pot. This was very much about people saying, ‘We need to stop arresting people, we need to have police focus on real crime and take this out of the hands of criminals, and have the resulting tax revenue for government.”
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