Ways and Means co-chair: It's time for legal pot in Oregon

File image of Rep. Peter Buckle »Play Video
File image of Rep. Peter Buckley, a Democrat from Ashland who is co-chair of Oregon's Ways and Means Committee.

SALEM, Ore. – A powerful Oregon state lawmaker says it's time for the Oregon legislature to take action on marijuana.

If a November ballot measure in California passes, he says he'd like to introduce legislation that would out-and-out legalize pot for adult consumption in Oregon.

This comes as California is getting ready to vote on legalization in November. If that bill, Proposition 19, passes – or if it only fails by a small margin – then the co-chair of Oregon's Ways and Means Committee, Rep. Peter Buckley, says it's time to have the discussion here.

Buckley's proposed "Oregon Cannabis Revenue Act" would take that one step further. It would allow marijuana sales in state-run stores and would create a group similar to the Oregon Liquor Control Commission, called the Oregon Cannabis Control Commission, to oversee how pot is grown and sold. Licensed growers then would be allowed to sell the drug commercially.

The debate
Buckley, a Democrat from Ashland, believes this legalization could raise tens of millions of dollars a year for a state struggling under across-the-board budget cuts. (Read more on his plan in the Ashland Daily Tidings.)

"We've tried prohibition for decades now, and we're paying the cost for it," Buckley tells us by phone. "Here in Southern Oregon we're paying the cost of having the actual drug cartels using our federal forestland as mini-plantations for their crops. Things have to change in some way."

Duane Fletchall, a retired narcotics officer in Oregon, is not so sure that legalization is the way to make that change, however.

"I don't care what anybody says – its not like alcohol – you can't control it," Fletchall said. "You're going to have people growing it. You're going to have drug cartels even getting bigger in Oregon and across the nation."

This former Marion County sheriff's sergeant says legalization of marijuana would pit the state against drug cartels, and there would be even "more" bloodshed over who controls the pot market. He also said that legalizing marijuana will make it an ever big problem for enforcement agents.

An Associated Press field poll of California voters released Sunday shows majority support for marijuana's legalization. The poll found 49 percent in favor of the measure, and 42 percent opposed. Its legalization is in Proposition 19, which goes in front of voters Nov. 2.

This California proposition would let adults 21 and older possess up to an ounce of marijuana for personal use and grow gardens up to 25 square feet. It also would allow cities and governments to decide for themselves whether to tax and allow pot sales.

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