Measure 91 would tax and regulate marijuana in Oregon. A problem — acknowledged by both No on 91 and Yes on 91 in last’s night “Great Pot Debate” at Portland State University — is that the measure doesn’t allow cities to tax. To test the theory that a “weed” can be taxed and regulated, those who crafted 91 wanted taxes to be lower than in Washington and in Oregon.
Problems with the marijuana edibles in Colorado were discussed. Today Dr. Ron Schwerzler admitted he was wrong about 5 children dying from the edibles. He may have confused facts about the edibles with three toddlers who died from neglect while parents smoked weed. Added to the two adults who died, there are 5 non-traffic fatalities in Colorado caused directly or indirectly by marijuana. (So far 13 children have been hospitalized for ingesting edibles, 7 of them in IC Units.) Dr. Schwertzler was correct, however, in asserting that you don’t treat one addiction with another addictive substance.
No one who was debating had the faintest idea how edibles would be regulated in Oregon. The debate was live streamed October 21 and will repeat on KATU TV station, Sunday, October 26, 9 a.m.
Measure 91 could set up turf battles between cities and the state over the right to tax. In last night’s debate, Clatsop County District Attorney Josh Marquis, suggested that it’s not the people, state, or the cities who would benefit, but lawyers who would fight for all sides. Marquis sounded critical of the state’s aversion to a sales tax. Oregon has no sales tax and Washington, home of Microsoft, Amazon, Starbucks, doesn’t have a state income tax. So instead of looking for easy solutions to raise revenues, both states have posed the idea of legalizing marijuana and using the tax for drug prevention education and other services. Thus far, marijuana businesses have resisted regulations in Colorado.
Oregon’s law would allow individual possession of marijuana that is much more than either Colorado or Washington.
Oregon decriminalized marijuana in 1973. There are about 2,000 + arrests per year for marijuana, but only 70 or so currently in jail for marijuana violations alone. Marquis pointed out that the crimes they committed, such as distributing or selling to children, would still be illegal if Measure 91 passes.
Portland Pre-empts Marijuana Taxes
Last Wednesday Portland city council voted to for a 10% sales tax on recreational marijuana — to be applied if Amendment 91 passes. Votes are counted on November 4. This action highlights one of the many flaws in Measure 91, which prohibits cities from taxing pot. Cities like Portland would like a slice of the marijuana pie, since they will need a lot of money to regulate the industry.
Many cities — Hillsboro, Beaverton, Forest Grove– have passed a tax on marijuana, or are considering the action, in advance of November 4. Although Measure 91 gives the state sole authority to tax marijuana, attorneys for some Oregon cities argue that municipal pot taxes will be grandfathered if passed before the election. Supporters of Measure 91 argue otherwise.
A few local leaders think the pre-emptive taxes are a way to justify the marijuana businesses in cities without residents’ approval. If this happens, Oregon will have the same political battles that have plagued Colorado and Washington.
While Oregon is counting on enacting a lower rate than Colorado and Washington, estimates vary as to how much money can be collected. A Portland firm, hired by the sponsors of Measure 91, estimated first-year taxes for the state to be 38.5 million. A committee made up of state economists estimated the figure to be about $9.3 million the first year.
Supporters of recreational marijuana propose that by creating a commercialized industry, marijuana can be taxed and regulated. When governments introduce vice to raise revenues, they risk doing harm to significant numbers of the population.
Back to the Debate
In questions after the debate, supporters of Measure 91 objected to being “criminals,” as they consider themselves under current law, despite the fact Oregon decriminalized marijuana in 1973. Inge Fryklund, a former prosecutor, argued that legalizing pot can keep marijuana away from children through regulation. Her debate partner for Yes on 91 was Richard Harris.
No one discussed the possibility of an increase in explosions caused by hash oil extraction, already a problem in Oregon. This problem increased threefold in Colorado by May of this year.
During the debate, the idea that legalizing and regulating pot could take profits away from cartels and put them out of business was mentioned. However, a Washington Post article earlier this year traced the business of cartels leaving Colorado to Central America, where they have introduced poppy cultivation. There was general acknowledgement that Washington and Colorado still have black markets. Why does Oregon think it could be different?
(Here’s our first story about Oregon’s Measure 91.)