by John Sajo, Oregon cannabis agriculturalist and decades-long organizer
I hope the democratic leaders of the Oregon Joint Committee on Marijuana Regulation wake up and take a new approach. They have been thinking that merging medical and recreational marijuana will create a “simpler” system because we won’t have two state agencies doing the same thing. The problem with that is federal marijuana prohibition, which distinguishes medical marijuana from recreational marijuana.
Having the OLCC take over medical marijuana is a terrible idea. Frankly the whole idea of seed to sale tracking and regulating marijuana like plutonium is suspect. It is based on the very questionable idea that the way avoid a federal crackdown on Oregon’s legal marijuana system is to comply with the Cole memo – the Obama administration document that outlines federal tolerance. First, who really thinks the Trump administration wants to follow Obama administration guidance? Second, the entire seed to sale tracking is a fraud as far as preventing diversion to the black market.
We still don’t really know what the feds will do about states with legal marijuana but the centralized over regulated system Oregon has created is extremely fragile when it comes to resisting the feds. Here are some suggestions for how to defend the will of Oregon voters to legalize against possible federal action:
1) Keep medical separate. This makes sense regardless because patients’ needs are getting lost in the rush for profits and taxes in the rec market. Medical marijuana is legal federally. Congress continues to pass bills that forbid the Justice Department from spending any money going after state legal medical marijuana.
2) Don’t create a centralized system. It is much easier to crack down on. Having the marijuana supply come from a few hundred OLCC farms instead of tens of thousands of medical marijuana gardens is much more vulnerable to fed raids. There is no reason for Oregon to provide a list of all marijuana producers to the feds.
3) Base our system of taxing and regulating marijuana on allowing the free citizens of Oregon to do what they want with marijuana. Stop regulating where no problems exist! Allow any Oregonian to sell marijuana either to stores or to other citizens however they choose. Adults growing four plants will often have excess over their needs and if we don’t allow it to be sold legally, it will by definition be sold illegally. Marijuana sold in stores can still be tested but tracking individual marijuana plants by law is a boondoggle that only makes farmers more vulnerable to feds.
4) Require any individual selling marijuana to report the total sales to the Oregon Department of Revenue and pay the 17% tax.
5) Allow adults to use marijuana socially in public places where everyone voluntarily chooses to be in the presence of marijuana smoke or other usage. Taxing this lightly will dramatically increase the amount of revenue the state collects.
These suggestions will create a multifaceted system. OLCC stores will do fine, as long as feds leave them alone. Medical dispensaries will be more protected because of the Congressional sidebars on federal medical marijuana enforcement. Individuals selling marijuana outside of regulated stores are the most immune from federal action. The feds will never have the resources to stop this activity which will occur regardless and has been unstoppable by prohibition for a century.
A system of marijuana regulation based on personal freedom will be the most successful. Entrepreneurs can focus on their dreams, not on ever changing regulations. Much more revenue will be generated. People will be willing to pay more tax if they are not oppressed by mind numbing regulations. And the whole system will be more protected against anything the feds can do.
Freedom still can work!