Pot committee reaches impasse that threatens its existence

Failure to reach resolution on a medical marijuana issue means the committee could be dissolved.

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Failure to reach resolution on a medical marijuana issue means the committee tasked with making rules for the state’s new legal marijuana market could be dissolved.

From OregonLive.com:

“The future of the committee is in the hands of the (legislative) leadership,” said Senate Minority Leader Ted Ferrioli, R-John Day, adding that the panel could be dissolved or temporarily split into separate House and Senate committees.

Ironically, the marijuana committee had largely reached consensus on a sweeping measure, Senate Bill 844, that is aimed primarily at putting new regulations on medical marijuana growers to stop diversions to the black market. Many legislators, law enforcement officials and even many figures in the emerging marijuana industry say that’s essential to creating a legal market for recreational sales of the drug. Oregon voters in November voted to legalize possession and sale of small amounts of marijuana.

The issue that brought the committee to an impasse: Allowing local governments to decide whether they can continue to ban medical marijuana. Previously, 146 cities and 26 (of 36 total) counties had blocked medical pot.

The Portland Tribune reports:

[Committee co-chairwoman Ann] Lininger said that if lawmakers allow cities and counties to ban medical marijuana businesses, that would go against the will of voters who wanted to decriminalize recreational pot for adults. Lininger and the two other House Democrats on the committee, Rep. Peter Buckley, D-Ashland, and Rep. Ken Helm, D-Beaverton, cast the “no” votes to defeat a compromise proposal by Sen. Floyd Prozanski, D-Eugene. That amendment would have allowed city councils and county commissions to vote on whether to ban medical marijuana dispensaries and processing businesses within 180 days of the bill becoming law, with provisions to grandfather in existing dispensaries and processors. It also set out a citizen initiative process for voters to challenge the bans.

Lininger, Helm and Buckley supported a nearly identical amendment, which would have required city councils and county commissioners to refer any ordinance to ban the medical marijuana businesses to voters. Prozanski also voted for that amendment, but it did not pass.