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    Finding a path forward for marijuana

    Senator Burdick and I on a tour of a medical marijuana grow site

    Senator Burdick and I on a tour of a medical marijuana grow site

    Over the past several months, the Oregon Legislature’s marijuana committee has worked hard to support an orderly roll out of legal marijuana. As co-chair of the committee, my goal has been to create marijuana policy that safeguards patients’ access to medicine, protects families and communities, and creates opportunity for local people.

    Committee members have developed consensus on lots of issues, like the need for tools to help local officials regulate legal marijuana businesses and rules to clarify that growers may possess what they produce.

    Despite our common ground, we reached an impasse on whether local officials may unilaterally prohibit medical marijuana dispensaries and processing facilities in their areas.

    I advocated for letting voters decide whether their community should prohibit legal medical marijuana businesses. I worry that letting city councils and county commissions unilaterally opt out could hurt patients’ access to medicine, undermine our effort to curb the black market, conflict with voters’ intent, and open the door for opt-out conversations for other state laws. What’s the next legal medical product a community might choose to prohibit – birth control? housing for people with disabilities?

    Unfortunately, our position did not receive majority support on the committee. It did, however, earn support from Representatives Peter Buckley and Ken Helm and Senator Floyd Prozanski.

    Some local newspapers also agreed with the wisdom of letting voters decide. Here are some good editorials from The Oregonian and the Eugene Register Guard.

    At this point the Senate has formed its own marijuana committee, the Senate Special Committee on Implementing Measure 91, and it will likely vote on SB 964, a medical marijuana bill that allows unilateral opt outs. If that bill passes, it will move to the House for consideration. The Senate committee will meet Monday at 5:00pm and the joint committee will convene Monday at 5:30pm.

    Despite the recent impasse, I believe there is good work we can still do together on issues like licensing, expungement of marijuana crimes, and energy use. I look forward to continuing to collaborate with our Senate colleagues on this work.

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