by Elizabeth Renter
Three states—Colorado, Washington, and Oregon—have the potential to change history in a few weeks as the first states to legalize recreational marijuana use. And while Washington and Colorado are seeing overwhelming support for their measures (57% and 51% respectively), Oregon voters aren’t so sure. As late as last month, 40% were opposed to legalization, 40% were in support, and a game-changing 20% were undecided.
So, why are Oregon voters undecided and what makes this bill different from the other two states?
There are several reasons the people of Oregon might still be swaying back and forth. Part of it is that the campaign to legalize hasn’t had as much funding in Oregon. This is partially because the man who wrote the Oregon Cannabis Tax Act has a shady past — one investors might want to steer clear of— and partially because the bill is so unique.
The Oregon bill is dramatically different than those in Washington and Colorado, for several different reasons.
Oregon’s Unique Marijuana Bill
The law is written to go all the way to the Supreme Court. If and when any legalization efforts are passed, you can bet the federal government (and their money-making and spending Drug War) will feel threatened and challenge it in court. Under President Obama, medical marijuana dispensaries have seen hundreds of federal raids, and legalization would surely bring an ever tougher crack down. The language of the Oregon bill addresses several concerns that would be used to bolster the case before the Supreme Court, but this means the wording of the bill is unusual and not as straight-forward.
Also, the Oregon legalization effort would create a whole new board for the regulation of pot. The Oregon Cannabis Commission (OCC), would be made up of seven people appointed by the Governor, each having one-year terms. Bill author Paul Stanford says this isn’t without cause—that he believed the people of Oregon would support a new board rather than the Liquor Board (for instance) taking over the oversight.
The Oregon bill, unlike others, would also set the stage for a slew of useful research on the plant – the effects, risks, and benefits of marijuana. It is written to run like a “science experiment”. This is a great aspect of the law as it will design studies to law to rest concerns about the plant and how it affects the body.
Finally, the Oregon Cannabis Tax Act would legalize all forms of hemp, allowing the people of the state to grow the multi-beneficial plant for use in textiles, oil, or fuel. It would be a license-free cash crop and you would be able to grow it as you would grow tomatoes in your back yard. Of course, this wouldn’t apply to the flowers and buds (for smoking) and would only be for low-THC plants, but it could bring back to life what was once one of the largest and most diverse crops in the United States.
So, what’s left to decide? This legislation wouldn’t create a state of pot heads, it would merely make marijuana available for consenting adults. Sort of like alcohol—scratch that—nothing like alcohol. Because unlike alcohol (which is perfectly legal and regulated by the state), marijuana won’t make you vomit, get into a drunken fight, or permanently damage your liver.