Killjoys joined evangelists Tuesday on a panel discussion in Bend on the coming legalization of recreational marijuana in Oregon.
“My role on the panel is the professional killjoy,” said Steve Gunnels, a Deschutes County chief deputy district attorney and drug crimes prosecutor. “And I hope to fulfill that role. I’m here, for one thing, to remind everybody that come July 1 it’s not just a marijuana-is-legal-for-everybody free-for-all. There are still limits to amounts of marijuana and there are limits to who can use marijuana or possess marijuana.”
With less than a month left before personal possession and use of recreational marijuana becomes legal, questions abound: Will it be OK to consume marijuana in a park or hotel room? When will it become available for sale? Where?
“I get calls all day from people who want to know, what do they do if the marijuana smoke is coming over the fence from their neighbors,” said Tom Towslee, a panel member and spokesman for the Oregon Liquor Control Commission recreational marijuana program. “What we’ll be doing … is we’ll be launching a … campaign in the middle of the month that is an attempt to educate people about what they can and can’t do.”
Employment law specialist Kurt Barker, an attorney with Karnopp Peterson in Bend, reminded the audience of about 60 people at the Deschutes Brewery & Public House that Measure 91 does not repeal state law or affect federal law on drug use in the workplace.
Federal law considers marijuana illegal, and state law permits employers to set drug policy, including drug testing, in the workplace. Employees who use medical marijuana may want to approach more tolerant employers now to discuss those policies, Barker told the audience at the Bend Chamber of Commerce town hall event.
Evangelists on the six-member panel included Jeremy Kwit, owner of Bloom Well, a marijuana dispensary on NE Division Street in Bend, and Michael Hughes, a Bend attorney who grows marijuana and represents dispensary owners.
“Cannabis has its own particular culture and has for, I don’t know, 60, 70 years, maybe,” Hughes said. “Part of what you see when people are very passionate about this topic is they themselves have been personally touched by it. They know somebody who went to prison. They know somebody whose kids were taken away from them. They know people whose lives were absolutely destroyed by this war on cannabis.”
Measure 91 gives the OLCC authority to regulate recreational marijuana from seed to sale, but it has no authority over simple use and possession, Towslee said.
The measure imposes strict monitoring on recreational marijuana, but regulation should not burden the marijuana industry with costs that drive consumers to a cheaper black market, he said. Medical marijuana growers, loosely regulated, are considered the source of black market marijuana in Oregon.
“Until there is some sort of regulation on grow operations, the black market is not going to go away,” Towslee said. “I spent seven years working for the United States Senate and I can tell you that the politics of the United States Senate are nothing compared to the politics of marijuana. The conflict between recreational marijuana and medical marijuana is byzantine, at best. The Legislature has a very short time to figure that out.”
— Reporter: 541-617-7815, firstname.lastname@example.org