By Rob Scott
MEDFORD, Ore. — This November, a measure that would legalize marijuana could be on the ballot in Oregon.
Proponents of the Oregon Cannabis Tax Act say that it could help boost the economy. However, some in Southern Oregon have seen first hand how marijuana use can negatively impact people. More than 160,000 signatures were turned in, but only eighty five thousand are needed to put the Oregon Cannabis Tax Act on the ballot this November.
“For all of Oregon it means that we can set the standards and precedents for the entire country, and we can be the leaders,” says Lori Duckworth, with SONORML.
The signatures are still being verified, but this November, Oregon voters could decide to legalize marijuana use. Proponents say it would generate more than $40 million a year in tax revenue.
“The Oregon Cannabis Tax Act will put 90% of that back into the Oregon general fund,” Duckworth says.
Similar proposals have been voted down in previous years in both Washington and Colorado. The proposal in Oregon does have opponents. Critics say that marijuana can negatively impair people and can even be a gateway drug. Edward Smith-Burns, of Addictions Recovery Center in Medford, has seen people voluntarily come in for help.
“It’s the number three drug of choice for individuals that we admit into our treatment services, behind alcohol and methamphetamine,” says Smith-Burns.
However, like alcohol and gambling, the proposal does have some seven percent of revenue going toward drug treatment plans.
“They support treatment services as well, so that if this initiative is set up to do that, then I think that is a responsible approach,” Smith-Burns states.
Proponents believe that because cannabis would only be sold in state licensed stores the black market would diminish. If the signatures are verified and voters than do pass the proposal in November only those aged 21 or older would be allowed to purchase cannabis.