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City Club weighs marijuana issue

Members could vote soon on plan for state legalization


Endorsement of Measure 91, which would legalize recreational use of marijuana in Oregon, will be considered by the City Club of Portland.

A City Club panel released a recommendation, which members will decide by Aug. 25. Official stands on selected ballot measures will be disclosed Aug. 26.

The City Club is Oregon’s most prestigious civic forum.

The report released Thursday argues, in part, that the state’s current marijuana laws “unnecessarily limit adult Oregonians’ freedom” to consume a product that, the report claims, is less addictive than alcohol and tobacco.

The report also argues that the social costs of the current system are too high and that crime can be reduced through regulated legalization. It claims consumption can be discouraged through education and advertising.

But the recommendation was not unanimous. Elisa Dozono, a Portland lawyer who led the panel, says the measure leaves regulatory shortcomings and the issue can be better handled at the federal level.

Thursday’s report is the final on five statewide ballot measures up in the Nov. 4 election.

The club did not issue reports on two other ballot topics: Measure 87, which allows for some outside employment by judges, and Measure 90, which provides for a top-two primary.

Changes in the issue

Voters in Washington and Colorado passed legalization in 2012. Retail sales began Jan. 1 in Colorado, and July 8 in Washington.

Measure 91 qualified by initiative petition, the third since 1986.

It is modeled on the other states in that details would be left to the Oregon Liquor Control Commission. Retail sales would start no earlier than July 1, 2016.

“Legalization of recreational marijuana will pose many challenges at first, but over time, Oregon will find that it is better off than under the current prohibition,” says Ari Wubbold, vice chairman of the City Club panel.

Joining Wubbold in support of an endorsement are Beth van Elswyk, Glenn Fee, Matthew Keenen, Mario Parker-Mulligan, Jonathan Poisner and Rick York.

Clifford Droke was the panel’s research adviser.

Alaska also will vote on a legalization measure Nov. 4.

Oregon voters rejected a different legalization ballot measure in 2012. The City Club took no stand, but it sponsored a Friday Forum on the measure.

Voters rejected a 2010 measure for the state to license dispensaries for medical marijuana. The City Club opposed it. Lawmakers passed a different version in 2013.

Oregon was the first state where lawmakers approved decriminalization of possession of less than one ounce of marijuana, back in 1973. About one-third of the states, excluding Washington and Colorado, have similar laws.

It was among the first states, in 1998, to approve marijuana for medicinal uses. There are 23 such states.

Marijuana remains illegal under federal law, and it is classified as a drug with no accepted medical uses.

An opposing view

Dozono, in her dissent, says the measure will result in too many uncertainties.

“While adopting the proposal will expand the volume of marijuana grown and distributed, it will not curtail the black market.... An unlimited number of licenses can be issued and key employees are not subject to scrutiny and restriction.

“The initiative appears driven not by a legitimate urgency to remedy flaws in the legal system, but rather an opportunistic attempt to take advantage of shifts in the political winds of public opinion.”

Recommended positions on the measures and presentations on the issues will take place at a City Club forum from 5:30 to 9 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 20, in the Village Ballroom at Oregon Public House, 700 NE Dekum St., Portland.

The public is invited, but only City Club members may vote on recommendations.

A link to the City Club of Portland’s report on Measure 91 and the majority and minority stances: pdxcityclub.org/ballotmeasures-pot

The City Club also is releasing a report on privatization of liquor sales now handled by the state, although sponsors chose not to proceed with a ballot measure this year. A link to that report: pdxcityclub.org/ballotmeasures-liquor



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