Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) said in an op-ed on Friday that marijuana legalization is "sound policy," and he urged Oregonians to follow in Colorado's footsteps and vote yes on recreational marijuana in next week's election.
"Colorado is approaching the first anniversary of legally regulated recreational marijuana for adults," Polis wrote in the Bend Bulletin. "The implementation of our new laws has gone smoothly overall, providing an excellent example for other states to follow. Our success has made it clear that when marijuana is regulated like alcohol, it can decrease crime, help fund schools and drug education programs, and keep money out of the hands of criminals and cartels."
Oregon voters are considering Measure 91, which would allow adults to possess up to eight ounces of marijuana at home and up to one ounce in public. Taxes on marijuana sales would fund schools, law enforcement, and drug prevention and education programs, while the Oregon Liquor Control Commission would regulate and monitor the industry.
"I’m excited Oregon will soon decide whether to join Colorado and Washington in regulating marijuana like alcohol," wrote Polis, who previously sponsored legislation that would do just that at the federal level. "More than ever, I believe it’s time to change course on decades of failed marijuana prohibition and demonstrate viable, effective alternatives to address the realities of marijuana today."
Colorado voters legalized recreational marijuana in 2012, with the first sales beginning on New Year's Day 2014. While the rollout of the new regulatory regime has not been perfect, it has largely been deemed a success. Voters supported the end of marijuana prohibition by a 10 percentage point margin in 2012 and have continued to support it. Within the regulated marketplace, teens appear to have been prevented from making illegal purchases.
The legal sale of recreational and medical marijuana has been lucrative for the state, generating about $30 million in taxes and fees. The Colorado Legislative Council forecasts that in the first full fiscal year of legal recreational sales, the state will rake in $47.7 million.
If Oregon passes Measure 91, the state's financial estimate committee projects that additional tax revenues could range from $17 million to $40 million annually. A recent study from the personal finance site NerdWallet placed the forecast range for Oregon between $50 million and $100 million in annual tax revenue.
Voters in Alaska and the District of Columbia will also decide whether to legalize recreational cannabis on Nov. 4.