SALEM, OR -- This week, State Senator Jackie Winters of Salem introduced a bill that would repeal sections of Oregon's voter-approved recreational marijuana law. Senate Bill 542 was requested by the League of Oregon Cities. Redmond Mayor George Endicott supports the bill.
"Cases like this, where [the state] tries to force you to do something that the local people just don't want you to do -- the whole issue gets around local options, local control," Endicott says. "And that's really the league's underlying philosophy on these kinds of issues. It isn't marijuana that's the issue here."
SB 542 would allow a city or county to regulate aspects of the production, wholesale, retail and distribution of recreational marijuana per the leadership of a city or district. It would also allow cities to tax recreational marijuana, which is currently prohibited under Measure 91.
Before voters passed Measure 91 in November, at least 70 Oregon cities had already passed ordinances trying to put in place 10 to 15 percent taxation rates on local marijuana sales. Endicott says in some cases, that taxation is important to cities' safety and regulation.
"I believe in democracy and the will of the people, but I think sometimes legislation is written without thinking through all the aspects of it," Endicott says. "For example, the local taxation outlets. We know that if we have outlets [of recreational marijuana] in our community that it will increase the public safety costs."
The bill also raises issues brought up by a ruling in Cave Junction. On October 17th, 2014, Josephine Circuit Court Judge Pat Wolke ruled that cities do not have to follow state laws that violate federal law. While that ruling focused on the delegation of government rather than the state's right to legalize a federally controlled substance, it raised still unanswered questions on a city's power to regulate Measure 91. Endicott hopes this bill will clear up some of those questions.
Proponents of the bill are also hoping to make it easier for jurisdictions to opt out of the measure. As it stands, cities can only block recreational pot sales if they can prove it hurts the city. Endicott says that process does not allow cities to be proactive, or account for personal sentiment within the community.
"You have to go through this huge study to demonstrate that there's an adverse impact on your community," Endicott says. "I don't know how you do that, as many other people don't know how you do that. How do you prove a negative?"
SB 542 was introduced Monday. It was referred to committee on Tuesday.
"It's hard to tell with the balance the way it is right now, Democrats over Republicans, on how they're going to come down on an issue like this," Endicott says. "I just can't read the tea leaves."
Recreational marijuana possession and growth becomes legal in Oregon on July 1st.