The good news: Oregon may have a marijuana legalization measure on the ballot soon. The bad news: It would give the state a monopoly on cannabis sales:
[Legalization advocates] plan to put the issue on the 2010 ballot with an initiative called the Oregon Cannabis Tax Act.
If they can gather 87,000 signatures to put it on the ballot, and voters then approved the initiative, the act would set up the Oregon Cannabis Control Commission. The new agency would sell pot to buyers 21 and over, with 90 percent of the profit going to the state’s general fund and 10 percent for drug treatment.
Activists last put a legalization measure on the ballot in 1986. It got just 26 percent support. But after decades fighting to legalize pot in Oregon, they believe the public has come around.
Have we learned nothing from the Oregon Liquor Control Commission? If we do this, it will take us forever to get new, artisinal brands of pot on the market, “coffeehouse” owners will lose money for months while they wait for licenses, and all the coolest cafes will open in California.
Here’s my idea for a compromise measure: Attach a rider eliminating the OLCC, transferring all its employees to the OCCC. Pot smokers are more relaxed than drinkers anyway, making them much better equipped to deal with lazy agency bureaucrats.
For a glimpse of what happens when the government is the sole distributor of a good, be sure to check out Doug’s write-up of the current state of liquor sales in Washington state. It’s hard to find stories that make the OLCC look good in comparison, but this is one of them.