Oregon is now the third state in the U.S. where voters will vote on whether to legalize marijuana in the November 2012 elections. The Oregon Secretary of State has certified the Oregon Cannabis Tax Act, or OCTA, has enough signatures to make the ballot. It will appear as Measure 80 to the voters of Oregon. The Oregon Cannabis Tax Act, if passed, would regulate the sales of marijuana for those over 21 years old. It would set up a distribution system where adults could buy cannabis for personal and private use only, through state-licensed stores. A whopping ninety percent of the tax revenue generated from the legal sales of Cannabis would go directly into the state’s general fund. That tax is estimated at more than $140 million annually.
The measure, if passed, would also open the door for the Oregon hemp farmer, with one percent of taxes going into a kick start program to promote Oregon-grown hemp as a food and fiber product and one percent that would be used to promote hemp as a biofuel. Much of that money would go into creating two separate state commissions that would oversee each. One percent would be devoted to drug education in public schools, and the remaining seven percent of the taxes collected from the sales of legal marijuana would go into drug treatment programs.
OCTA calls for the creation of a Cannabis Commission that would oversee retail sales and marijuana cultivation and have the power to limit the amount of marijuana a person could purchase. The Cannabis Commission would do work similar to the alcohol commission that oversees alcohol sales and regulations. Under the proposal, marijuana possession would be decriminalized although public pot consumption would be prohibited and subject to a fine of $250. There is an exception written into measure 80, “..except where prominent signs permit and minors are neither admitted nor employed”, opening the possibility that Oregon may move cannabis lounges from being medical patients-only to bar-type of establishments, regulated by the new state Cannabis Commission.
Paul Stanford, the founder of The Hemp and Cannabis Foundation, and the THCF clinics that are in several medical marijuana states was the measure’s chief petitioner. This was Stanford’s latest of several attempts to get a legalization effort on the ballot. It is the second time he has made it this far. Stanford says that he has been working toward this goal for the last 24 years. He turned in over 165,000 signatures to get the 87,213 that they needed. Stanford came up with 88,887 valid signatures, narrowly making the ballot with just 1600 extras.
Public polls in the U.S. show marijuana legalization has been gaining popularity nationwide. Oregonians have a mail-in ballot system, so every voter is mailed a ballot. A larger turnout may bode well for those hoping to legalize cannabis. We’ll find out if Oregon citizens, along with Washington and Colorado citizens have enough supporters to change cannabis laws forever come November 6th. If Oregon voters pass measure 80, it will take effect on January 1st, 2013.
UPDATE: This article has been updated 7-15-12 to address public consumption of cannabis and correct information about cannabis bar-type establishments that would be permitted if Measure 80 passes. An earlier version stated they would not be allowed.