Barnhart: Lawmakers should take lead on marijuana in Oregon

EUGENE, Ore. - Rep. Phil Barnhart prefers pot's luck with pols to potluck at the polls.

The Eugene area lawmaker wants state leaders to take the lead on legalizing marijuana rather than leaving it up to voters.

Oregon defeated Measure 80 in 2012. The Oregon legalization measure lacked the proposed controls and limits featured in successful measures in Washington and Colorado.
Barnhart told KVAL News, "I think the Legislature needs to take charge of it. We need to run out a measure to the voters in November 2014."

Activists have vowed to return to the ballot box seeking voter approval of marijuana legalization.

Barnhart would prefer a joint House-Senate committee iron out a proposal when the legislature returns to Salem in February 2014. The goal: Put a law crafted by lawmakers before voters in the November 2014 election.

The details remain to be worked out, he said, but Barnhart said the Oregon Liquor Control Commssion could take regulatory control of the growing and selling of marijuana.
Adds Barnhart, "I would like a system like that for marijuana. We've already got the distribution system in place. It's not going to cost us any money to set that up."

State control could take organized crime out of the marijuana business, he said, while creating a new source of tax revenue for the State of Oregon.

On the other side of the debate is Eugene attorney, Brian Michaels, who works with medical marijuana cases and clients. He says, "If you have an OLCC place that sells it and it's regulated through the state, what's on the shelf? What is it going to look like? Who's going to regulate that?

Michaels says the marijuana community wants to work with lawmakers, but if their final measure is too restrictive, "Then we will have an initiative on the ballot, we'll politic against theirs and we will win."