With Elections Looming, OR Senator Comes Out in Support of Legalization

Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley, a Democrat, has announced that he will be voting “yes” on Oregon’s legalization initiative this November. According to his office, Merkley stopped short of fully endorsing Oregon’s legalization initiative, but his announcement makes him the first sitting U.S. Senator to publicly support the legalization and regulation of cannabis.

While Oregon is not the only region holding a major vote on marijuana policy this year, its marijuana election is unique because this is the state’s second attempt at legalization. In 2012 — when voters in Washington and Colorado successfully legalized pot in their own states — Oregon voters very nearly passed an initiative that many claimed was too expansive and lenient on the potential cannabis industry. This year’s initiative, Measure 91, comes with more practical restrictions and heavier regulations on recreational cannabis, and has proven to be more popular with the general public.

Beyond Senator Merkley, Measure 91 has seen support from a variety of different public figures: U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer has been a long-time supporter of marijuana and hemp legalization, while former Oregon Supreme Court Justice Bill Riggs officially endorsed the initiative earlier this year. Two major publications — The NY Times and Oregon’s own Oregonian — have also endorsed the state’s move to legalize.

The most recent poll indicates a voter majority of 52 percent in favor of Measure 91 and 41 percent opposed, according to Oregon Public Broadcasting. The most important aspect of this year’s marijuana election in Oregon, pollster John Horvick reports, is expected to be voter turnout among young Oregonians. “So if the marijuana campaign is able to get those voters out, it looks like it could pass, it’ll be close, a squeaker.”

If passed, Measure 91 will legalize, regulate, and tax the sales of marijuana to adults aged 21 and older. Additionally, adults will be allowed to carry up to eight ounces of dried cannabis and will be allowed to cultivate up to four personal marijuana plants in the privacy of one’s own home. The initiative also includes a layout for an infrastructure of new cannabusinesses, and the new industry will have its regulations written by the Oregon Liquor Control Commission.

Reports have indicated that the state could make up to $40 million annually in taxes from a legal marijuana market. In a post-legalization Oregon, the breakdown of where marijuana tax revenue will go is as follows: 40% of revenue will go to public schools; 20% to programs involving mental health, alcoholism, and drug treatment; 15% to state police; 20% to local law enforcement agencies (distributed proportionately by population), and the final 5% will go to the Oregon Health Authority for alcohol and drug abuse treatment services.





Photo Credit: Edmund Garman

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