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Legislators to look at GMOs, marijuana legalization and checks on gun buyers

Pot, guns and genetically modified food are among the topics that could dominate the Oregon Legislature's special session, which starts next week.

Rep. Peter Buckley, D-Ashland, said the Legislature will consider asking voters in November whether they want to legalize marijuana and allow the Legislature to craft rules to avoid some of the pitfalls of other states.

"We want to learn from Colorado," he said. "We want to learn from Washington."

The Legislature is looking at its own ballot initiative as opposed to initiatives written by marijuana activists.

The special session that starts Feb. 3 could be the first in a long time that isn't dominated by budget issues.

Buckley, who is co-chair of the Ways and Means Committee, said there will be fine-tuning but no major changes coming up after years of relentless budget battles.

During the first week of the 35-day special session, the issues that will take center stage should become apparent.

A comprehensive background check for all gun transactions could be discussed, but the controversial issue died in a previous legislative session. Local Republicans including Rep. Mike McLane, of Powell Butte, and Rep. Sal Esquivel, of Medford, have come out in opposition.

The Legislature could take up the issue of labeling foods to indicate whether they contain genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

Buckley said the Legislature could refer the GMO labeling question to voters.

The Legislature likely will look at fixes for Cover Oregon, which had a rocky rollout and has generated a lot of criticism from Oregonians.

Rep. Dennis Richardson, R-Central Point, said Cover Oregon has been a failure, and its financial problems won't be sustainable for the state.

He said the governor and the Legislature need to acknowledge the failure in this session.

"We need to stop it now or we're going to continue spending money," he said. "We're throwing good money after bad."

— Damian Mann

Read more in Friday's Daily Tidings.