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A few easy calls on ballot measures

Voters are about to be confronted with a crowded November ballot with dozens of difficult choices to make. As a new publication still learning about how Hillsboro works, it would be a bit presumptuous to weigh in on local races (and with no contested City Council contests, there aren’t many of those).

But we, along with our colleagues at our sister papers in the Pamplin Media Group, have had ample time to look at many of the statewide measures and races and, in the weeks to come, will be sharing our recommendations on many of them. Some require a great deal of thought and analysis, but there are a few — at least in our minds — that are relatively easy calls. Here’s our take on five of them:

Measure 80: The Oregon Cannabis Tax Act

NO

There’s no dispute that cannabis provides relief for many people who suffer from a variety of medical issues and we support efforts to allow them to use marijuana under a doctor’s supervision.

However, we are highly frustrated with the current status of Oregon’s marijuana laws, which enable thousands of Oregonians who have minor or fake medical problems to use the drug legally while spawning a cottage industry of pot-shops that operate in the gray shadows of the law.

Last November, for example, agents with the regional drug enforcement team raided a Hillsboro dispensary after learning the owners were selling medical marijuana for a profit. Earlier in the year a clinic in Aloha was shut down for similar reasons.

So, we’ll listen to anyone with a well-reasoned plan for reform. The problem is the Oregon Cannabis Tax Act, if you actually read it, comes off as the ramblings of someone who’s been consuming a little too much of the product. This measure, if passed, would set up a cannabis commission — controlled by pot growers and processors — to award licenses “to any qualified applicant” for cultivating marijuana. The measure’s authors describe it as “a scientific experiment by the people of the state of Oregon to lower the misuse of, illicit traffic in and harm associated with cannabis.”

We’re not sure about the scientific value of this measure, but we agree this would be a wild experiment with unpredictable consequences. And we’re certain Measure 80 is a bad way to start needed reform of Oregon’s current marijuana laws.

Measures 82 and 83:

No and No

At first, it might seem like a proposal for a single gambling joint in East Multnomah County are of little interest to folks in Hillsboro. But make no mistake, if approved, it would likely set off a gold-rush for others.

These two measures would create the opportunity to have privately owned, Nevada-style casinos in Oregon, with the first being located at the old Multnomah Kennel Club in Wood Village.

Basic mathematics, as Bill Clinton might say, are all that’s required to understand why these measures are a very bad deal for Oregon. The backers of the measures say they would contribute 25 percent of the gross gambling revenues back to the state for a variety of public purposes. They estimate the state would receive $100 million each year.

That’s cash that the state could certainly use.

But let’s consider that in a more direct light: What the backers are really saying is that gamblers will lose $400 million in the casino each year, and the casino owners — presumably the outfit from Canada that’s financing the campaign — will kick back $100 million to the state.

When you consider that the majority of the casino’s customers will come from the Portland area, what truly is being proposed is an economic drain on our communities. Customers will lose $400 million each year, the state will get $100 million — likely offset by a decline in lottery revenues — and the rest of the profits will be shipped off to Canada. What the casino promoters promise in return is a $250 million investment sometime between 2013 and 2028.

That’s a particularly bad outcome for Oregon, which already has an over-abundance of gambling opportunities where the public payoff is much higher.

We’re not thrilled with the state’s addiction to Lottery revenue, but at least that money can be used for a variety of good causes (including the Hillsboro School District, which got about $7 million last year). Tribal casinos, meanwhile, are located in rural areas. So at least in those cases, urban residents are traveling to less-affluent communities and losing their money there — where it actually remains and has a chance to do some good.

Measures 82 and 83, by contrast, don’t add up for anyone except the out-of-state casino owners.

Measures 77 and 78:

YES and YES

These measures won’t generate as much passion as efforts to promote ganja or gambling, but the legislative referrals make a lot more sense.

Measure 77 amends the state constitution to give the governor authority to declare a “catastrophic disaster.” We hope it doesn’t come to that, but see no harm in granting broader power to the state’s chief executive in the event of a true disaster.

Measure 78 simply cleans up some language in the constitution to use more modern wording and it gets rid of some gender-biased phrasing along the way.




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