THE BLOG
11/17/2014 01:15 pm ET Updated Jan 14, 2015

District Attorney Who Opposed Oregon Legalization In Charge Of Implementing Marijuana Regulations

Measure 91 to legalize marijuana passed with 55.9% of the votes in Oregon. Now the task of implementing the regulations falls to the Oregon Liquor Control Commission, whose chair, Rob Patridge, pledged to "make this measure work Oregon's way" the day after the election.

But chairman of the OLCC isn't Patridge's only job. He's also the district attorney of Klamath County, where Measure 91 was opposed by 56 percent of the voters, including, presumably, Rob Patridge.

As part of my investigation into the Kevin Sabet Oregon Marijuana "Education" Tour, I uncovered emails from five counties' district attorney's offices, though, sadly, that did not include Klamath County. But it did include the Oregon District Attorneys listserve, where, on August 18, the Benton and Wasco County DAs voiced their opposition and the Crook County district attorney, Daina Vitolins, explained how she told the Bend Bulletin newspaper that "I told him ODAA had voted but that did not necessarily mean EVERY SINGLE DA opposed 91. I declined to tell him names or numbers but said the organization as a whole chose to oppose 91."

The Bulletin ended up reporting that the opposition to Measure 91 "consists mainly of the state's district attorneys and the state's sheriffs' association." The paper further commented, "The Bulletin asked the state's 36 district attorneys where they stand on Measure 91, and the group was unanimously against it, though they weren't lockstep in their reasons for opposing it. The district attorneys from Josephine, Union and Malheur counties didn't respond to the question."

In addition to being opposed to the measure he's now tasked with implementing, Rob Patridge lacks the fundamental understanding of both the science of cannabis use and the language of Measure 91. As a Southern Oregon TV station KTVL reported, Patridge opposed Measure 91 in part for its lack of an unscientific DUID standard. "Just like .08 is there for alcohol, that is not included in this particular measure," said Patridge, revealing his ignorance of how marijuana has no reliable equivalent to the 0.08 BAC used to determine alcohol impairment.

Patridge was also upset that there weren't any limits on licensing written into Measure 91. "You can be a producer, a distributor and a wholesaler and sell, so you can ... hold all four licenses," said Patridge, without any hint of the irony that he runs a commission that applies those same licensing procedures to alcohol - Measure 91 copied that language from the existing liquor laws Patridge's OLCC enforces.

Earlier in the year, Patridge was explaining to a Salem, Oregon TV station KDRV that he and the OLCC aren't competent to do the job. "We lack the training; we lack the testing that may have to go hand-in-hand with this. We lack, frankly some of the legal obligations that would have to go with this," said Patridge.

In a sit-down interview with The Oregonian in Portland shortly after the election, Patridge gave some insight on where he believes the legislature should step in to modify Measure 91. "We don't need excessive regulation," said Patridge. "By the same token, our goal is to protect public safety so we don't make edibles attractive to kids and we don't do things that other states have stumbled with because of the rapid nature of how they have had to" implement laws legalizing marijuana.

How will Oregon regulate edibles? How will the medical marijuana program co-exist with the recreational laws? Should there be a limit on the number of marijuana licenses? "All of that is on the table right now," Patridge told The Oregonian. "I certainly think it would be better to look at all approaches and keep the door open."

Guiding the measure through the legislature will be long-time allies to the state's medical marijuana lobbyists, State Sen. Floyd Prozanski and State Rep. Peter Buckley. But judging from comments the two made in The Daily Astorian newspaper on the north coast, advocates for marijuana legalization may not be happy with the legislative outcomes.

Regarding those THC-infused edibles that were the focus of the No on Measure 91 campaign and a concern to OLCC Chair / Klamath DA Patridge, Sen. Prozanski told the Daily Astorian, "I think we need to have a discussion about what's going to be available at a retail level for sale and consumption, as opposed to what's available in the medical program." It might make sense to more strictly regulate the "shape and fashion" of edible marijuana products available for recreational use, so they do not appeal to children, as well as "some of the extremely high THC products," Prozanski said.

Does that mean medical marijuana dispensaries might carry multi-colored infused gummi bears, but rec shops would have to carry beige-colored flavorless infused gummi discs? Those kinds of decisions will be made with the final approval of the Klamath County DA who opposed marijuana legalization and told Portland's TV station KOIN the day after the election, "Protecting kids is very important. The edibles piece is usually important."

Other considerations by the legislature mentioned in the Daily Astorian include Sen. Prozanski's call to move the date when personal possession and cultivation becomes legal from July 1, 2015, to a sooner date, as well as expunging the records of those convicted of marijuana crimes that became legal with the passage of Measure 91. Rep. Buckley mentioned streamlining the regulation of medical marijuana growers and testing facilities that could serve as a blueprint for Measure 91 recreational regulations.

Rep. Buckley also brought up consideration of tightening the qualifications for the medical marijuana program for preventing recreational users and illegal growers from using the program as a tax dodge or a trafficking cover.

Lobbyists for the cities and counties in Oregon have an issue with the local ban provisions of Measure 91. It allows for cities and counties to vote to ban marijuana licensees only through a vote of the people that cannot happen until November 2016. Those lobbyists complain that licensure will begin in January 2016, so cities and counties may already have functioning pot licensees up and running before they get a chance to band them, possibly opening the banning jurisdiction to lawsuits for restraint of trade.

Unmentioned in the Daily Astorian story are the 49 cities in Oregon that pre-emptively passed local taxes on marijuana prior to Measure 91's passage. While the measure explicitly vests taxation power at the state level, explicitly forbids taxation at the local level, and explicitly repeals and supersedes already-passed taxes, my sources tell me there will be a major push at the legislature to get those taxes "grandfathered in" by legislation. Such a move would go expressly against the will of the people, especially in cities like Portland where the measure passed by over 70 percent.