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Oregon voters legalize marijuana

Oregon has joined Washington, Colorado and the District of Columbia in legalizing recreational use of marijuana — as long as you’re 21 or older, according to Tuesday night election returns.

“The marijuana initiative is a higher margin than I thought it would be,” said Ashland state Rep. Peter Buckley. “The time has come to have a legal, well regulated system that brings marijuana into the mainstream.”

With nearly 75 percent of the statewide vote counted, Ballot Measure 91 was ahead 54.2 percent to 45.8 percent, or 590,768 to 499,498.

In Jackson County, voters were approving the measure 53 percent, or 37,602 votes, to 47 percent, or 33,729, in returns released just before midnight Tuesday.

Colorado and Washington previously legalized recreational marijuana, and voters in the District of Columbia Tuesday night appeared to be giving overwhelming support to legalization.

Under Oregon's Ballot Measure 91, adults 21 and older could possess up to eight ounces of dried marijuana, grow four plants, and have one pound of edible products, 72 ounces of liquid pot products and an ounce of hashish.

Public use of marijuana would be banned, and it would remain a felony to sell marijuana to minors. Current driving under the influence laws would still apply to marijuana users. Employers could still impose drug-free workplace rules.

The proposal calls for legalization by July 1 and requires the state Liquor Control Commission to adopt rules by Jan. 1, 2016, for retail marijuana outlets.

The measure would set a tax rate of $35 an ounce. The state would collect the tax. After administrative costs, 35 percent of the tax revenues would go to state and local police departments. Another 25 percent would go to drug treatment and mental health programs. The remaining 40 percent would go to schools.

Several local cities and Jackson County have passed additional taxes, which are expressly not allowed under Ballot Measure 91.

Buckley said he doesn’t think the Legislature will allow the extra taxes because the higher price could encourage a black market for marijuana.

“It is very ironic that these cities that didn’t want regulated marijuana dispensaries somehow changed their philosophy and policies,” Buckley said. 

In one section of Measure 91, it states: "No county or city of this state shall impose any fee or tax." Another section states: "(the state law) shall be paramount and superior to and shall fully replace and supersede any and all municipal charter enactments or local ordinances inconsistent with it."

Medical marijuana advocate Lori Duckworth criticized communities such as Medford that have taken a hard line against marijuana but then decided to put a tax in place just in case Ballot Measure 91 passed.

She cited Medford in particular, which created a permanent moratorium on medical marijuana dispensaries and shut down her dispensary.

“Now that they want their slice of the pie is shameful,” she said.

Other cities that decided not to have a moratorium while creating taxes should be commended, she said.

Jackson County Circuit Judge Lorenzo Mejia in July dismissed racketeering and money-laundering charges against Duckworth and her husband, Leland A. Duckworth, after a highly publicized raid on their medical marijuana dispensary in May 2013.

Mejia found the Duckworths each guilty of a single count of felony delivery of marijuana as part of a plea bargain. A previous indictment against Lori Duckworth on another 22 charges was dismissed, and a 27-count indictment against her husband was also dismissed.

Duckworth said she thinks it’s only a matter of time before marijuana tasting rooms open up in Jackson County, similar to the kind of tasting rooms at wineries.

Medford Councilor Daniel Bunn said the passage of Ballot Measure 91 doesn’t change much in the short term for Medford, though he said it will likely allow for more backyard marijuana gardens.

“I’ll be looking at how Medford voted and how my ward, in particular, voted,” he said.

He said he thinks residents are still divided over the issue, and he’s not sure what steps the council might take in light of the passage of Measure 91.

“It’s one step, but I don’t know if it settles the debate,” he said.

The council will likely have to deal with nuisance issues regarding marijuana.

“Our goal will continue to be how to govern and make Medford a nice place to live,” he said.

Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476. Follow on Twitter at @reporterdm.

Vials of medical marijuana are on display at Puff's Smoke Shop in Ashland. Mail Tribune file photo