Oregon Considers Legalizing, Taxing, and Regulating Marijuana

March 16, 2009 at 10:11 am Leave a comment

California might have to hurry up if it wants to be the first state to legalize marijuana. While Assembly Bill 390 is still in its early stages there, House Bill 3274 in Oregon would legalize (and regulate) marijuana within the state, adding a tax of $98/ounce – in other words, $3.50 per gram. According to The Raw Story, it would ‘direct the state to establish and operate a marijuana production facility…The state would control potency and pharmacy distribution’. Oregon Live reports:

“Oregonians have voted to authorize the use of medical marijuana, yet the Legislature has failed to provide adequate safeguards for citizens who have a legitimate need for it,” said Rep. Carolyn Tomei, D-Milwaukie, in a prepared statement. 

House Bill 3274 would levy a $98 per ounce tax on marijuana, to cover the state’s production and distribution costs.

“Many patients have no assurance that their marijuana is not laced with pesticides or other toxic chemicals,” said Rep. Jim Thompson, R-Dallas. “If passed into law, this legislation will implement safe standards to dispense the drug through a tightly-controlled system.”

Rep. Ron Maurer, R-Grants Pass, and Rep. Chris Harker, D-Beaverton, are also sponsors of the bill.

They’ve hit the nail on the head with regard to a glaring problem with any decriminalization of marijuana or legalization for medicinal use (perhaps even, I might argue, in the Netherlands). While it is legal for people to possess marijuana for medicinal purposes,  obtaining the medicine still requires some form of illegal activity. And, as with most illegal activity, this comes with some form of risk. I think that most patients would be willing to pay an extra $3.50 per gram in order to be able to buy their joint at a local pharmacy, complete with the knowledge that it has not been laced with any other substance.

And here, we have a great example of how the legal market could run an underground market out of business.I can’t imagine a person who would want to save $3.50 so badly that they would rather go through all of the risks of the illegal drug trade. With one swift gesture, the government could protect its citizens’ safety, protect its citizens’ civil liberties, destroy the largest component of the illegal drug trade, increase national security, and make a tidy profit from it all. All while advertising the merits of being bipartisan.

Now if only clearing up the economy were that easy.

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