When Oregon voters decided to legalize marijuana for all adults in 2014, activists and cannabis business owners were understandably elated. But one of the stipulations of Oregon’s Measure 91 was that counties and towns the ability to ban marijuana businesses if they so chose. And many jurisdictions decided to do just that.
But voters in many counties and towns in Oregon – over 50 – will go to the polls on Election Day to decide whether or not they want to opt in to the legal marijuana industry. Many of the jurisdictions with bans are in the eastern, more conservative, part of the state; we’ll see how many voters decide that the loss of possible economic activity is too much to trade off for whatever perceived benefits the bans bring.
In some of the counties and towns voting next month there is a tax that comes along with allowing marijuana businesses; in Marion County, for example, the tax would be 3% tax on sales, to go on top of the 17% statewide sales tax on recreational cannabis. Increased economic activity plus increased tax revenue may be enough to get more conservative voters to approve lifting the bans on businesses.
Needless to say, many cannabis business owners will be watching the results in Oregon very closely. Expanding the already legal market in the state will create more jobs and hit black market dealers even harder than they have been hit already. Criminals and cartels cannot compete with legal businesses as long as regulation and taxation is kept to a minimum.
But dealers in towns and counties that have banned marijuana businesses face less competition and therefore have incentive to stay where they are and keep selling; yet another reason for these localities to lift the bans and let the market decide.