Initiatives would put an end to 'Cannabis Conflict'

The solution to the "Cannabis Conflict" is in sight!. Yes, as this paper pointed out in its editorial of May 11, there is a problem caused by having partially lawful marijuana in a world where the demand for marijuana for personal uses other than medical is massive.

That demand does exert significant pressure on growers of medical marijuana, pressure which apparently does tempt a few individuals to divert that product to other markets. Your editorial is a reasoned presentation of several aspects of the problem, but unfortunately it is initially flawed by the reference to "back-door legalization" in the opening paragraph.

It is common in some disapproving circles to refer to the valuable Oregon Medical Marijuana Act as such a "back-door" attempt or the advocates of it referred to as "dishonest" because they put their energies into getting OMMA passed rather than working for straight forward legalization.

Being a three-time chief petitioner for statewide legalization measures and a co-author of OMMA, I reject such gratuitous characterizations.

The facts remain as they were in 1998: Oregonians needed access to marijuana for medical purposes, a need which could be solved as Oregonians continued to discuss full legalization and advocates put aside their desire for wider legalization and worked to bring relief to those Oregonians.

While the diversion of medical marijuana is a problem, it can be minimized by allowing growers to make some profit from their efforts and the creation of a dispensary system to both give growers a lawful outlet and to provide medicine to patients who can't self-supply. Those changes would minimize diversion, but the only real total solution, as you allude to, is legalization of marijuana for all personal uses.

While no state has taken "that step," Oregon is getting ready to this year.

As of today, two marijuana legalization initiatives have gathered the required number of signatures to qualify for the early date for submitting signatures to the secretary of state for verification. As these signatures are verified, workers will continue to canvas Oregonians for the rest of the signatures needed to make up for any disqualified during verification. Backers of both measures expect that the initiatives will be on November's ballot.

One initiative, I-9, is a statutory change setting up a program to create an organized production, distribution, sales and taxation process for marijuana. Titled Oregon Cannabis Tax Act, it is a detailed proposal which would put the state in charge of all commercial aspects of marijuana as well as allowing production of hemp. Production, possession and personal use of marijuana by an individual would be excluded from the commercial regulations.

Given this paper's expressed sympathy for the loss of marijuana-driven revenue suffered by Northern California counties, this measure may be attractive to this paper's editors. OCTA has been in the works for a couple years and now is making good forward progress.

The other initiative, I-24, is amendment which creates a new Section 46 of Article I of Oregon's constitution, which provides that, except for actions that endanger minors or public safety, neither the criminal offenses and sanctions nor the laws of seizure and forfeiture of Oregon shall apply to the private, personal use, possession or production of marijuana by adults 21 years of age and older.

The state legislature may enact laws and regulations consistent with the amendment to reasonably define, limit and regulate the use, possession, production, sale or taxation of marijuana under state law.

It may seem confusing to have two measures relating to the same subject on the ballot but the two measures do not conflict and should not be seen as being in competition for your vote. Since I-24 changes the Constitution and OCTA changes statutes, the two could both pass and complement each other.

Because the Oregon legislature and Oregonians through the initiative process are coequal when it comes to creating laws, if both measures pass the legislature would be able to make changes in OCTA as long the changes fall within those actions considered "reasonable" under the new Article I, Section 46.

This paper is correct in saying that medical marijuana laws will invite exploitation as long as marijuana is illegal. However, it is wrong in saying that it is unlikely that any state will legalize marijuana in the near future.

November is the near future and Oregon is highly likely to pass the two legalization initiatives. Oregonians should sign the two petitions and vote yes on them next fall. The "Cannabis Conflict" can be ended.

Laird Funk is the chairman of Oregon's Advisory Committee on Medical Marijuana and lives in Williams.

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