Saturday, November 21, 2015

“No” is Not a Mandate

The legislature erred in allowing local governments in counties where the “no” vote on Measure 91 was more than 55% to ban licensed cannabusinesses and make those who disagree refer their ban to the ballot.  The writers of Measure 91 erred in requiring that cannabis and its products must be kept out of sight of public places.  The writers of Measure 91 and the legislature erred in allowing local governments to regulate cannabis.  In doing so, each led local governments astray and caused them to err in writing local ordinances that are causing otherwise unnecessary litigation and alienating their voters.
Only a “yes” vote is a mandate for a specific proposal or at least the general idea behind it.  To vote against a measure does not always mean that one opposes the general idea, but only that one does not like that particular proposal. 
After campaigning for previous pot measures, I campaigned and voted against Measure 91 because I saw a lot of mischief that could be caused by police who are against legalization, in the tight personal possession limits and draconian penalties for those who violate the licensing provisions one is subject to for having too much product in one’s home.  I thought the tax was too high, the possession limits were too low, and that the measure seemed like it was written by corporations who wanted to take over our cannabis business. 
There were many people who opposed any taxes and regulation on their herb, in this and previous measures that were a lot more permissive.  Others profit from the marijuana black market and could see an end coming to their happy, unregulated, illicit business.  I was accused of being a dealer just because I opposed Measure 91.
But because the legislature took 55% county “no” votes for a local mandate against licensed production and selling, local governments took that attitude and ran with it, proclaiming that they had a mandate to ban cannabusinesses even if they didn’t have the full 55% against the measure, and even to ban homegrown, which Measure 91 and the legislature protected against local regulation.
The provision in Measure 91 that cannabis plants and its products must be kept out of sight of public places gave some local governments the idea that there is something inherently scandalous or dangerous in other people being able to see or even smell it.  That was another reason that people like me voted against it.  What’s the point of making it legal if one has to hide it?
Likewise, the OLCC, whose liquor business competes with cannabis, decided that, although people are not allowed to drink alcohol in public but are allowed to drink it in bars, the same could not be allowed for cannabis, declaring that businesses devote to cannabis are public places that one cannot consume the product in.  We can drink in bars and even in parks where a bar is set up, and smoke cigars in cigar shops, but we can consume cannabis only in private homes.
Measure 91 was supposed to regulate marijuana like liquor, which is regulated only by the state.  So the writers and the legislature both erred when they allowed any local regulation of cannabis growers, producers and sellers, particularly because most local officials are steeped in anti-pot rhetoric which had not yet been an issue in local campaigns.  After Measure 91 passed, the House in particular took notice of the will of the people and worked to make it work for the people who passed it.  The Senate was less responsive to the will of the majority, and more responsive so to cities and counties who wanted to control and tax it themselves. 
Many cities and some counties started before the election to pass taxes and regulations on cannabis before Measure 91 passed, thinking that they could get their taxes and regulations grandfathered into the law.  But governments cannot tax or regulate an illegal substance, and Measure 91 forbids local taxes in one provision, while another revoked all conflicting local ordinances.  Enacting such ordinances was unlawful, ignorant behavior on their part, and they should not have been rewarded with permission to reasonably regulate it locally, having shown that they would do so unreasonably. 
What some cities and counties have passed since shows how unreasonable and unlawful they can be, such as Grants Pass and Central Point passing “Homegrown and Recreational Marijuana,” which presumes to regulate homegrown, which is not subject to regulation beyond the exemptions written into Measure 91, and allows growing cannabis only “indoors,” which they define as a building without windows.
But local governments who took a majority “no” vote as a mandate against cannabis erred most of all, forgetting that there are other measures that they need its “yes” voters to pass.  Many of the anti-pot “no” voters on Measure 91 have also been dependable “no” votes on any new taxes but pot taxes and other taxes they would not pay. 

Almost nobody votes for more money for law enforcement if they think that they might be targeted by it.  Cannabis consumers have mostly voted against general law enforcement levies every time, a quiet but large minority, maybe even a majority, of “no” voters, of which anti-government fanatics are only the noisy, visible minority.  But they voted “yes” on funding Animal Control in Josephine County, which does not threaten them or cost much.  Continuing the war on marijuana locally won’t get them to vote “yes” on new taxes for local law enforcement.  Only a government that doesn’t make war on them will get their trust and their votes.

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Rycke Brown, Natural Gardener          541-955-9040