Editorial: Wrong time for marijuana bill

Advocates are urging the Oregon Legislature to legalize marijuana production, processing and sale. They believe public support has shifted and the time is now.

In fact, now is exactly the wrong time, for at least two reasons.

First, voters just said no when they defeated Measure 80 in November. It would be insulting and just plain wrong for the Legislature to ignore that decision just a few short months later.

Second, Washington and Colorado have recently approved legalization measures and are working through the numerous complications. Even if Oregon were sure it wanted legalization, it would be foolish to pass up the opportunity to watch how it goes in those states and learn from their experience.

House Bill 3371 would allow Oregonians to produce, process and sell marijuana, with individuals over age 21 permitted to grow and possess limited amounts. Taxation of $35 per ounce would be overseen by the Oregon Liquor Control Commission, and proceeds divided among schools, state police, the general fund and services for mental health, alcoholism and drugs. Licensing would be overseen by the Oregon Health Authority.

At a hearing this week before the House Judiciary Committee, the Legislature was urged to draft a bill and send it to voters rather than have advocates submit another ballot initiative.

Opponents include the Oregon State Sheriffs Association, which cites the lack of a driving impairment standard.

Washington County Sheriff Pat Garrett pointed out that there’s no measurement like the blood-alcohol standard that establishes impairment for alcohol. He urged legislators to watch what happens in Washington and Colorado, particularly what the federal government does, if anything, to enforce federal laws that are in conflict with the new legalization.

The bill was sent on to the House Revenue Committee, where attention is expected to focus on revenue issues, such as how much might be collected and how it would be spent. That’s important information, but until the other states’ experience is known, the committee would be wise to spend its time elsewhere.