Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Why Oregon did not legalize Marijuana

One of the few surprising things to happen in the 2012 election was the failure of Oregon to legalize marijuana.  Oregon is pretty liberal when it comes to marijuana and currently if you are found to have under an ounce the legal ramifications are fairly minor.  Oregon also has a medical marijuana law that allows just about anyone to get a card to legally smoke pot.

So why did Oregonians not support making the current laws even more liberal?  I have a few theories.

1.  Oregon hates the OLCC and this would create yet another bureaucracy just like it

For those unfamiliar with the OLCC it is the Oregon Liquor Control Commission.  I very much doubt there is a government agency that Oregonians hate more than the OLCC.  They make it incredibly hard to buy liquor in the state and have enough restrictions that music venues often have to jump through a crazy number of hoops to allow people to have a beer while watching a band.  If you move to Oregon and like to have a drink once in a while you will quickly learn to hate the absurd rules that the OLCC has.

The ballot measure to legalize marijuana would have created an OLCC like bureaucracy to manage marijuana production and distribution.  This probably would have made it more difficult and expensive to get marijuana for the average smoker and might have even hurt quality.

2.  Pot is already widely available, cheap, and good quality

Although I don't smoke, it is my understanding that there is currently no issue in getting marijuana whenever you want anywhere in the state of Oregon.  It is supposedly decently priced and good quality.  For many smokers why would you want to mess with that?  Especially if it means creating a system like the OLCC.

3.  People benefit from the current system too much

Another issue or legalization is that many otherwise law abiding citizens already make a living from the growth and distribution of marijuana.  Many of these people do so under the medical marijuana laws already on the books.  Although there would be a chance that they could profit even more from full legalization, I'm not sure if that is something you would want to risk your livelihood on.

So in the end the current system of mostly illegal marijuana actually serves smokers rather well and I'm not sure the pro-legalization people made the case that changing the law would actually improve anything for the vast majority of marijuana smokers or suppliers.