If California Proposition 19 and Oregon Measure 74 pass, what then?
Speculation runs the gamut: The price of marijuana will drop. Oregonians will flock to California to get high. Growers will ship product to the East Coast to get a better price. Police will have a more difficult time determining who's legally allowed to possess or distribute marijuana.
A five-day series on measures in the Nov. 2 election
Sunday: Proponents of Oregon Measure 74 say it would guarantee a reliable supply of medical marijuana
Monday: M74 opponents say it's too troublesome or doesn't go far enough
Tuesday: California mayors square off over Proposition 19, the legalization of marijuana
Wednesday: Prop 19 may lead to showdown with federal government
Today: What if both measures pass? What would be the impacts to Southern Oregon?
A public forum
What: Forum on the impacts of Oregon Measure 74 and California Proposition 19, sponsored by the Mail Tribune and Jefferson Public Radio
When: 7 p.m. today, Oct. 7
Where: Rogue River Room, Stevenson Union, Southern Oregon University
Panelists include Sgt. Erik Fisher of the Oregon State Police Drug Enforcement Program; Portland attorney Leland Berger, who assisted in writing the Oregon Medical Marijuana Act; Deputy Chief Tim George of the Medford Police Department; Leslie Wilde, who runs the Green Collar Compassionate Collective dispensary in Dunsmuir, Calif.
Live video stream: The Mail Tribune will provide a live blog and video stream of tonight's forum. To read along or watch, go to www.mailtribune.com/measuringmarijuana and click on the blog/video link near the top of the page. People who watch will have the opportunity to ask questions that may be incorporated into the evening's presentation.
No one knows for sure what the impacts will be if California legalizes small amounts of marijuana and Oregon establishes state-run medical marijuana dispensaries, or what'll happen if one measure passes and the other doesn't.
"I suspect that locally the price will go down, and we will quickly become the source for the illegal marijuana trade throughout the country," said Sgt. Erik Fisher of the Oregon State Police Drug Enforcement Section. "It certainly puts the OSP in a pickle. I think it's going to be a mess."
Fisher, who said the OSP is careful not to take a position on Measure 74, predicts that law enforcement will struggle with conflicting marijuana laws if either or both measures pass. Fisher said OSP has no problems with people legally growing or consuming pot under existing medical marijuana laws.
California's initiative would allow a person 21 or older to legally possess up to an ounce of marijuana and to grow it in a space of up to 25 square feet at home. In Oregon, Measure 74 would set up state-regulated marijuana dispensaries funded by charging growers and dispensaries an annual licensing fee and 10 percent of their income.
Passage of Proposition 19 would prompt Jackson County residents to cross state lines to buy weed, predicts Lori Duckworth, executive director of the Southern Oregon chapter of the National Organization for Reform of Marijuana Laws, or NORML, based in Medford.
"They would run for the border," she said.
Duckworth said many local residents who may need medical marijuana are reluctant to get a card for fear their names will become known to law enforcement.
"They don't want to be on the list," she said.
Melanie Barniskis, spokeswoman for Progressive Reform of Oregon, said her organization supports legalization of drugs in general to end confusion over laws. It believes that drug abuse is a medical issue, not a legal issue.
Barniskis sees different scenarios playing out, depending on how voters respond to the two initiatives.
If Proposition 19 and Measure 74 fail in both states, she expects law enforcement will take that as a mandate to come down hard on pot growers and consumers.
If Proposition 19 passes, she believes there will be a temptation for Southern Oregon pot growers to ship product across the border to take advantage of the wide-open market.
If both measures pass, marijuana will become like any other agricultural product — subject to supply and demand, she said.
"The price is going to drop drastically in the beginning," she predicted. "The price is going to be consumer-driven."
She doubts the marijuana trade would be taken over by big business exclusively, as some fear, partly because different types of pot treat different maladies. One type of marijuana is good for headaches for one individual, but not for someone else, she said.
Fisher of the OSP rejects the idea that police will become emboldened if Measure 74 fails, because the existing Oregon Medical Marijuana Act is still in effect.
He believes California's initiative will pose the most problems.
"I suspect if Proposition 19 passes, it will get the attention of the federal government," he said.
Troopers would have to make judgment calls if marijuana were found during a traffic stop, determining whether it was purchased in California or whether the person has a legitimate medical marijuana card in Oregon, he said.
If marijuana drops to $50 an ounce or less, he expects much of the marijuana grown in Oregon and California will head to the East Coast, where it can fetch up to $700 an ounce.
With a climate well-suited for marijuana cultivation, Southern Oregon already leads the state in seizures of illegal plants, he said.
Medford police Deputy Chief Tim George doubts residents of Jackson County will head to the border to get their weed.
"Why would you burn up your gas money?" he said. "No one's going to drive to Hilt for an ounce of weed."
George concedes that an ounce of pot costs about $300 or more presently, but doesn't think an expected price drop in California would attract local residents, particularly when Jackson County is awash in weed.
If Measure 74 and Proposition 19 pass, George said it will not hinder the Medford Police Department's campaign to stop the illegal use of marijuana.
"As Charlton Heston once said, I won't let go of it 'from my cold dead hands,' " George said.
Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476, or e-mail email@example.com.