Other Views: Oregon will have much to learn about marijuana from Colorado, Washington
Let's assume, for the sake of argument, that some sort of measure legalizing the recreational use of marijuana qualifies for the Oregon ballot in November.
That's certainly not a long shot: In the wake of successful legalization efforts in Washington state and Colorado, Oregon marijuana advocates are gathering signatures for such a ballot measure.
During the election campaign, we're almost certain to hear about the experiences to date with legalized marijuana in Washington and Colorado. And, if the measure passes, it will fall to state regulators to write the rules implementing the ballot measure, in much the same fashion as a state panel worked out the rules governing medical marijuana dispensaries in Oregon.
So we were intrigued by a weekend story in The New York Times tracking what's happened in Colorado in the five months since recreational marijuana sales were allowed there.
As the story itself noted, however, you have to take these initial reports with a big grain of salt: They're almost all based on anecdotes. It may be years before we see reliable health statistics on the impact of legalizing marijuana.
With that said, one particular area that has been troublesome in Colorado (and this is an area where both legalization fans and foes agree) involves marijuana-infused edible items.
So far this year, the Times reported, nine children have ended up at a children's hospital in Aurora after consuming marijuana; six of the children were critically ill. In addition, authorities believe edible marijuana played a role in the deaths of two adults.
In response, Colorado has tightened its labeling and packaging rules for edible marijuana. In addition, regulators are considering limiting the amount of THC (the psychoactive component of marijuana) that can be added to edibles. These are regulations that Oregon would be wise to consider to try to prevent similar problems, assuming that legalization passes muster with voters.
It's not clear yet whether legalization in Colorado has increased the trafficking of marijuana to neighboring states. (It's also not clear how much of an issue this would be in Oregon, where most interstate trafficking follows Interstate 5, and where one of our neighbors already has legalized pot.)
Meanwhile, proponents say that the vast majority of Colorado's pot retailers are obeying state laws and regulations and that the young marijuana industry has generated $12.6 million in taxes and fees thus far — less than expected, but still a boon for state coffers.
We'll be hearing a lot more in the months to come about how marijuana legalization is playing out in Colorado and Washington state. While we need to remember that these anecdotes can be twisted to serve political ends, Oregon voters still can learn from the experiences of other states in deciding whether the time is right for legalization here.