This Weed In News: Oregon Counts its Cash; California Makes its Laws; Colorado Senator Wants to Keep Drug Officials Honest

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There’s minimal debate that marijuana legalization generates new tax revenue — as Oregon has shown in its reporting of legal marijuana sales — increases civil liberties, and makes room in our overcrowded prisons and jails for real criminals. But, as Democratic California Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed three progressive cannabis bills while the White House has pledged to take an unbiased look into the effects of marijuana legalization in the United States, I’m left wondering whether our state laboratories of democracy in danger of being undermined.

Oregon Collects $82M in Marijuana Taxes

Oregon has thus far collected $82,203,729 in tax revenue from the sale of marijuana products for fiscal year 2018. In August 2018, alone, the state collected $10,114,594 million in cannabis taxes, according to a Sept. 27, 2018, report by the Oregon Department of Revenue.

The report on Oregon’s marijuana tax distribution indicates legalization has not only benefited the state school fund, law enforcement, mental health, alcohol- and drug-diversion programs, it has also benefited cities and counties that have chosen to opt in on legalization.

According to the state, here is how marijuana tax revenue:.

  • $3,688,799 will benefit participating cities and counties
  • $8,838,092 will go to the state school fund
  • $4,419,046 will be moved to the Mental Health, Alcoholism, and Drug Services Account to match funding for county treatment efforts
  • $3,314,284 will go to Oregon State Police
  • $1,104,761 will go to the Oregon Health Authority for drug treatment and prevention

The state’s marijuana tax income shows that the industry is vibrant and benefiting Oregonians across the board. While marijuana taxes grossed $20,652,983 in fiscal year 2016, the figure was $82,203,729 in 2018 — nearly tripling in two years.

California Governor Signs, Vetoes Marijuana Bills

Democratic California Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed SB 829, so there will be no free cannabis donations for the needy.  

“This bill contains provisions that conflict with the strict standards contained in the voter-approved Control, Regulate and Tax Adult Use Marijuana Act. Providing free cannabis to a person with only a doctor’s recommendation undermines these rules and the intent of the voters. For this reason, I cannot sign this bill,” Brown wrote in response to one of the cannabis-related bills he vetoed on Sept. 30, 2018.

In addition to vetoing SB 829, Brown also rejected three other pieces of legislation last week.

However, while Brown dismissed several cannabis-related bills, he also saw the wisdom of signing into law four pieces of legislation.

  • AB 1793 permits adults convicted of past marijuana-related offenses that are no longer considered illegal to have their past convictions automatically removed from the records.
  • SB 1294 creates equity provisions that will allow marijuana business licensees who qualify to receive reduced interest loans and grants.
  • AB 2215 requires the Veterinary Medical Board to establish guidelines for licensed veterinarians to discuss the use of cannabis on animals.
  • AB 2020 allows for the sale and consumption of marijuana for individuals 21 and older at county fairs or district agricultural events.

Brown’s signature on these bills will provide enhanced civil liberties and new business opportunities.

White House Drug Office Pledges Unbiased Cannabis Study

Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado said he obtained a pledge from the President’s Office on National Drug Control Policy promising that scrutiny of marijuana legalization by the Marijuana Policy Coordination Committee would be conducted in an “objective and dispassionate” manner, according to The Associated Press in an Oct. 3, 2018, report published on Marijuana.com.  

Despite an Aug. 29, 2018, BuzzFeed News report that the committee has reportedly been directed to ignore the positive impacts of marijuana legalization and focus on the “negative trends,” Bennet tweeted on Oct. 1, 2018, “I intend to hold them to this promise.”

In a letter written by Bennet to the Office of National Drug Control Policy on Aug. 30, 2018, the senator blasted officials as  an “intentional effort to mislead the American people” and denounced the White House for tarnishing its reputation on the topic of marijuana law reform.

Bennet summarized his tweet by noting, “Government-sponsored propaganda shouldn’t undermine use of fact-based data to inform marijuana policy.”

Colorado and other states — 31 in all, plus Washington, D.C. — took the lead in allowing their residents access to recreational and adult-use marijuana, while the federal government maintained its adherence to the Controlled Substances Act. Federalism and the 10th Amendment are the founding principles and framework for states and local jurisdictions to act as “laboratories of democracy.” The phrase was coined by former United States Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis, who wrote in a dissenting opinion in the Feb. 19, 1932, Supreme Court case of New York State Ice Company v. Liebmann:

“To stay experimentation in things social and economic is a grave responsibility. Denial of the right to experiment may be fraught with serious consequences to the nation. It is one of the happy incidents of the federal system that a single courageous state may, if its citizens choose, serve as a laboratory; and try novel social and economic experiments without risk to the rest of the country.”

By allowing individual states to find the best solutions for their problems, and allowing other states to adopt those progressive policies, the laboratory of democracy — the right and responsibility of state and local governments closer to their citizens to govern their own affairs — remains America’s best hope for finding a winning approach for tough problems, regardless of political ideology.

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