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    Marijuana Maneuvers

    Last night we reunited the Joint Committee to Implement Measure 91 for the first time since the Big Breakup. By breakup, I mean the Senate’s decision to form its own breakaway committee to push through a bill that will allow local governments to prohibit legal medical marijuana businesses without a prior vote of the people. You can watch Sen. Burdick and I debate the issue on KATU’s Your Voice, Your Vote in the video below.

    The evening began when our Senate colleagues convened a meeting of their breakaway committee to work their medical marijuana bill, SB 964. They declined to hold a public hearing on the controversial opt-out provision and passed it to the Senate floor for a vote.

    Senate Special Committee on Implementing Measure 91

    Here are the Senators at work – plus Sen. Ferrioli, hiding.

    At 5:30 p.m., I convened our Joint Committee to Implement Measure 91 and legislative counsel Mark Mayer walked us through a draft framework to support implementation of M91.

    The framework includes elements to support:

    • Licensing for growers, processors, retailers, and providers of cannabis seeds and immature plants,
    • Certification to support marijuana research,
    • Seed-to-sale tracking for marijuana plants,
    • Compliance with state land use rules,
    • Taxation at the point of sale for marijuana products,
    • Reduction and expungement of marijuana crimes,
    • Civil enforcement of marijuana rules , and
    • Preemption against local governments prohibiting all recreational marijuana businesses without a public vote

    We’ll hold our first public hearing on these ideas Wednesday, and we welcome your input.

    A friend of mine recently observed that if you like law or if you like sausage, you probably don’t want to watch either one of them getting made. The lawmaking process for our Joint Committee has been a little grisly, for sure. That said, I think our committee members share enough common ground – a commitment to Oregon families, communities, and small businesses – that we can still do good work together to implement legal marijuana in Oregon.

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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.