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Some ballot measures are no-brainers

Voters are about to be confronted with a crowded November ballot with dozens of difficult choices to make. Many of the measures and races will require a great deal of thought and analysis, but there are a few — at least in our minds — that are relatively easy calls.

Some of these no-brainers come in the form of statewide ballot measures that are either so innocuous (in the case of two legislative referrals) or so ill-conceived (in the case of three initiatives) that the decision should be obvious. Here’s our take on five measures that fall into these categories:

Measure 80, the Oregon Cannabis Tax Act. Vote “no.” We aren’t happy with the current status of Oregon’s marijuana laws, which enable tens of thousands of Oregonians who have major, minor or even pretend medical problems to use pot legally, while it remains illegal for everyone else.

However, 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 aspects of this measure, but we agree this would be a wild experiment with vast unpredictable consequences. Oregon’s current marijuana laws need reform, but we’re pretty sure Measure 80 isn’t the place to start.

Measures 82 and 83: Vote “no,” twice. 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.

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 and new jobs in the lower-paying service sector of the economy.

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

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

Measures 77 and 78: Vote “yes.” These measures won’t generate as much passion as legalized pot or expanded gambling, but they are benign proposals referred to the voters by the Legislature. 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 we see no harm in granting broader power to the governor 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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