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Last Word: Oregon’s Local Cannabis Ban Should Be a Wakeup Call on the Road to Legalization

To the casual reader, you would think that cannabis is legal and available throughout all of Oregon.

The casual reader, however, would be wrong.

Despite Oregon’s reputation as one of only four states where marijuana is fully legal, for both medical and recreational use, it’s also a state where the counties have a say in whether cannabis is sold there. In many cases, Oregon cities and counties are not opening their doors to legal marijuana.

The Salem Statesman Journal made that painfully obvious recently with a story that pointed out that no less than “Nineteen Oregon counties and 86 Oregon cities have banned marijuana producers, processors, wholesalers and retailers.”

And, it’s a costly decision.

Marion County alone could lose $110 million in economic activity this year as business goes elsewhere because of its ban, said Beau Whitney, an economist and vice president of government and compliance at Toronto-based Golden Leaf Holdings.

Recreational marijuana became legal in 2014 via Measure 91. State lawmakers allowed local governments to ban pot businesses if their voters opposed legalization. In counties with less than 60 percent rejecting legal sales, like Marion, the bans are temporary and must be put to the voters. In counties with more than 60 percent rejecting legalization, local governments can ban pot businesses outright.

Marion County’s moratorium was enacted in September 2015, though Salem still allows marijuana businesses. County residents will have a chance to vote on the ban in November.”

Here’s what jumped out at me from the Statesman Journal story: “Counties with a moratorium don’t reap the benefits of tax revenue from cannabis sales, which partially fund law enforcement. They also lose out on the ripple effect of economic investment and new jobs.”

This is something that a great many people don’t understand: Despite all the hoopla over the legalization of marijuana in so-many states, even in the ones that have been the most open and welcoming towards legal cannabis, there are still a great many people who still object.

Most CBE readers are likely on the side of legalization, and the more of it we can get, the better. That’s all well and good, but it’s important to remember that although the Federal restrictions are still a huge barrier, there are a lot of other barriers as well, and in many cases, in the places you would least expect them.

So, it’s good to feel good about the progress that legal marijuana has made. The growth of the Cannabis Industry has been impressive, but just remember this — the battle is not over yet, even in places where you think it is.

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