I've got my fingers crossed for our neighbors to the south to join us in a legal weed wonderland, and it's not for the reasons you might think. I'm a licensed recreational marijuana processor in Washington state, so I do want what's good for the industry, but I also want what's good for Oregon (since I spent the first 27 years of my life there). I think Measure 91 can be both. Here's why:
1. The timing is right. This could not be a better year for Oregon to take the plunge into legalization. The industry may be young, but it's rife with opportunity -- for innovation, for creativity, and for putting a stake in the ground as one of the first states to brave new territory. The Northwest has already fostered a supportive environment for entrepreneurs in the recreational market, so the stage is set for Oregon to step up. Plus, the launch of recreational marijuana markets in Washington and Colorado has taught us a lot about how to move forward. It's also provided solid facts to reassure voters that legalizing cannabis won't trigger a social apocalypse that has planes colliding in the sky and kids smoking blunts instead of doing their homework. In fact, a state survey in Colorado showed a decrease in teen drug use from 2013 to 2014. The road to legalization is certainly not without its rough patches, but I believe the good outweighs the bad by a longshot. And with marijuana measures on ballots in Alaska, Florida and D.C. this fall, Oregon can contribute to the momentum this movement is building across the country.
2. The opposition is shady. According to funding reports for the No on 91 campaign, almost 99 percent of the campaign's money came from the Oregon State Sheriffs' Association and the Oregon Narcotics Enforcement Association. Curious why the police are shelling out the majority of the cash to halt legalization? So was High Times writer Russ Belville. He reviewed the Oregon 2013 Asset Forfeiture Report and discovered that marijuana-related busts are lucrative, to say the least. Belville reports that, in just one year, "criminal and civil asset forfeitures grossed $3.6 million for the state, $2.5 million of that in cash. After costs and distributions, the net proceeds were $1.7 million." No on 91 claims to oppose the measure because it only supports the interests of "Big Marijuana" looking to exploit our citizens, but the numbers give me reason to believe that's not really what they're worried about.
3. Oregonians are pioneers of controversial legislation. Oregon has been able to pull off ambitious efforts that would have fallen flat in elsewhere, from truly bikeable cities to the Bottle Bill to the Death with Dignity Act. There's some magic combination of open-mindedness and passion for change in Oregon that makes it the perfect place to implement legalization in a smart, effective way that can be replicated across America. We need that kind of leadership both as an industry and as a country on the brink of really shifting our collective attitude toward marijuana. And as beloved Oregonian Governor Tom McCall once said, "If Oregon can do it, other people try it."