Sunday, December 14, 2014

Letter to Oregon Legislators regarding marijuana Measure 91


Honorable Representatives,

Reading the Oregonian, I found an article regarding OLCC’s request for emergency funding to hire regulators, and the following opinions of the reporter and one legislator:

“Monday’s vote was a sign that some lawmakers have reservations about the state’s new marijuana policy.

“Sen. Fred Girod, R-Stayton, highlighted what he sees as excessive possession and home cultivation limits in the law.  Households can have up to four marijuana plants, and individuals 21 and older can possess up to 8 ounces at home and one ounce away from home.

“’There are some major, major, problems in this ballot measure,’ he said.”

There are major problems with this measure, though not that the possession limits are excessive.  On the contrary, they are so limited, and the law so misunderstood, that people may lose their homes just for trying to keep enough weed to supply their own households.

To start with, that 8 ounces of dried pot, a mere half-pound, is the household possession limit, outside of which the household is subject to licensing and punishment for not being licensed, with can include, at the discretion of the arresting officer, seizure of anything having to do with marijuana and eventual confiscation in the case of conviction, including facilities for the storing, serving, or using of marijuana items.”  In the case of homegrown, that includes your home and the property on which it sits.  All possession limits in this law are for a household, except for the ounce one is allowed to carry in public, and is allowed give away to another household.  

When it comes to homegrown, one has to think in terms of growing one crop per year under natural sunlight and how much a person needs to get through a year, which is about 8 ounces for one who smokes only in the evenings.  Four plants can easily grow 2 pounds.  What are we supposed to do with the rest?  

But ½ pound is not enough for every household, as one household can have several adult marijuana users.  This is especially common among the poor.  We should be able to grow and keep enough for ourselves to avoid paying that $35 per ounce retail tax.  You don’t want to continue to impoverish poor families over their medicine, I am sure, nor take their homes for supplying only their own habits.

I was wondering how anyone would think that these low possession limits would be excessive, and I can only think of the fear of feeding the out-of-state black market, since it will be dead in-state if we are allowed to keep enough weed.  But a black market feeds off of bans, restrictions, limits, and high prices.  It is killed by freedom, abundance and low prices.

That is what has been happening in much of the state for the last few years with medical marijuana.  Most people who grow too much pot for their own use, with or without a medical card, don’t have the time, money, and out-of-state connections to sell it outside the state, even if they had the interest.  Most of the newer growers in the state have no such interest; they are risk-averse, which is why they got a medical card or stay under medical limits.  So they give away or sell their excess cheap to their friends and relatives. 

Anyone with grower connections has had few problems getting their smoke cheap or free; the ones who need this law are people without such connections or a medical card that allows one to buy from medical dispensaries, which are convenience stores selling at the old black market price.  One used to be able to find weed by asking any scruffy kid on the street.  Now the price is too low, and needy customers too few, to interest kids in selling it.  The adults stuck in the black market have moved on to selling hard drugs.

I cannot imagine that you want to keep pot restricted enough to make everyone buy from retailers in order to make money off of its taxes.  But if you do, it will only revive the black market and the state’s oppression of poor pot smokers who will keep enough for their households and even be tempted to sell their excess in a revived in-state black market.  People will likely lose their homes under the present limits.

This measure was apparently written by tobacco companies for tobacco companies, to take over our pot growing; that is why the heaviest regulations and all that ridiculous per-ounce tax are on the growers.  Some will lose their farms through regulatory violations, and out-of-state corporations will snap them up, since there are no limits on the number of licenses one person/corporation can buy.  That is one of the first things the legislature should change.

There is a severe and unwarranted mismatch between the personal possession limits on medical marijuana and household limits on homegrown so-called “recreational” marijuana.  We should be able to grow and hold as much as any medical card holder.  If that becomes the case, many medical card holders will drop their expensive medical cards and simply grow their own or buy it in stores.  Some will keep their cards because they can’t grow it and they want to avoid the tax.  If prices in retail pot stores fall lower than dispensaries supplied only by medical growers, OMMP will become obsolete as people stop renewing their cards.

OMMP limits started out at 3 ounces, and were raised by the legislature to enough to supply a heavily medicated patient for a year, 1 ½ pounds, along with comparable amounts of edibles and hash oil.  This measure is supposed to put recreational marijuana on the same footing with alcohol, yet we are allowed to possess up to 200 gallons of alcohol per household without a license.  This is one reason why we don’t have a black market in alcohol, the other being that the taxes are not too high. 

$35 per ounce is too high and inflexible.  As competition and abundance drops prices, it could end up being over half the price, which would give the black market a ceiling under which to operate, as it is doing in Washington and Colorado.  Taxes should be a percentage of the price, a sales tax at the retail level, and the price should be allowed to find its natural bottom, to keep the in-state black market from being revived.  Revenue to the state should not be an issue, except in not allowing local taxes.

Liquor taxes are shared with local governments, who are not allowed to tax it, but are allowed to spend their share however they wish.  But this measure allows marijuana taxes shared with local governments to be used only for enforcement of this single law.  Such devoted funding will lead to over-enforcement by locals and revival of the black market.  These shared taxes should be treated like shared liquor taxes, and let the state look to its own enforcement of its licensing rules.  Otherwise, local voters may well ban licensing in their counties and cities, in defense against over-zealous enforcement against homegrown, since tax sharing depends on the number of licenses granted in the jurisdictions.

As for the out-of-state black markets, let other states look to their own laws, and kill their black markets by legalizing.  It is not a concern for Oregon voters, and shouldn’t be for the feds.  The solution lies with the states which ban it.  The ban was never justified and should be repealed nationwide.

In summary, please increase possession limits to be the same as OMMP or better; limit the number of licenses any one person/corporation can hold; change the tax to a low percentage rather than a flat per-ounce charge, on retailers rather than growers; reduce the reporting requirements for growers; and allow local governments to put their share of taxes into their general funds.

Thank you for your attention to these matters.

Rycke Brown, Natural Gardener       541-955-9040

#Pot is my #antidepressant #medicine: #marijuana, #cannabis, #homeremedies