Oregon Eyeing Legalization a Second Time


On November 6, 2012, cannabis advocates across the country were shocked to learn that Oregon voters had voted down Oregon Ballot Measure 80; a bill which would have legalized the sale, cultivation and use of cannabis. Some credited its failure to the fact that the big donors decided to sink their money into the Washington and Colorado ballot initiatives instead of Oregon’s; others think that Oregon was not yet ready for legalized cannabis.

Now, Oregon cannabis activists are trying once again to legalize cannabis for recreational use with Initiative Petition 53; the odds of it passing have never been better. According to Liberty Voice, support for cannabis legalization has gained critical ground in the last two years. Polls reveal that approximately 51 percent of voters support the legalization of recreational cannabis.

While there are many states consider legalizing medical marijuana this election cycle, only Oregon and Alaska are considering legalizing recreational cannabis. With fewer cannabis legalization measures on the legislative plate, Oregon activists have been much more successful in attracting wealthy donors that failed to make donations in the past, such as Henry van Ameringen, the heir to International Flavor and Fragrances.

Learning from the success of Washington and Colorado, Oregon organizers of the cannabis movement have crafted a cannabis law similar to the ones passed in Washington and Colorado while maintaining a few key differences. One such difference is how they plan on taxing marijuana. Instead of adopting a steep 25 percent tax on marijuana, like in Washington, Oregonians plan on taxing marijuana at $35 an ounce and $5 per plant.

Currently, legalization efforts are primarily being spearheaded by New Approach Oregon, a cannabis coalition. The focus of the organization’s message is to emphasize what IP 53 won’t do as much as what it will do. New Approach emphasizes that IP 53 won’t change labor or DUI laws and that it won’t be accessible to people under the age of 21.

New Approach also stresses the point that the legalization of cannabis is better for children because under an unregulated and illicit cannabis market there are no age restrictions. This is a clever argument, because while the financial argument for legalization is a strong point, it is still incredibly easy to manipulate voters against an issue if they think the children are in “danger.”

Waning support for prohibition, increased financial support for legalization, and less emotional arguments to cloud the debate put Oregon on track to becoming the third state in the union to legalize cannabis. If IP 53 passes, the state of Oregon will enjoy a nice economic boom similar to that of Colorado; plus, a new dynamic sense of competition will begin fostering the marijuana market.

More supply in the market means lower prices, which will lead to more consumers and eventually more opportunities for the herbal entrepreneur. While Oregon is still not a sure bet, the odds are shifting in favor of cannabis activists; in the coming months, expect those numbers to continue shifting in that direction.

William Sumner, a freelance writer and marijuana journalist, was a staff writer for MJINews from May 2014 through February 2018. You can follow him on Twitter @W_Sumner.

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