Oregon Marijuana Law Might Face Legal Difficulty, City And County Associations Say

April 11, 2015 Nemes Legal

Oregons brand-new cannabis legalization law is on unstable legal ground when it attempts to restrict the ability of localcity governments to tax and control retail sales of the drug, lawyers for cities and counties argued Wednesday.

The warning of possible legal action came as the counties and citiescontinued to press the Oregon Legislature to rewrite the marijuana measure authorized by voters last November.

The regionalcity governments want the capability to impose their own taxes on retail cannabis sales, and they want more latitude to restrict regional sales completely.

Frankly, I would prefer to deal with you than litigate, Rob Bovett, legal counsel for the Association of Oregon Counties, informed lawmakers studying the implementation of Step 91.

Bovett presented aneight-page legal memo likewise signed by Sean ODay, general counsel of the League of Oregon Cities, saying that both state and federal law could defeat the new laws provisions.

Sponsors of the effort say they banned local taxes to ensure that retail rates remain low enough to contend with the black market. And they say that just local voters – not a city or county council – must have the ability to choose to ban regional pot sales.

Anthony Johnson, the procedures main sponsor, said difficulties in federal court are likely and are already happening in Colorado, which legalized the drug in 2012.

But he stated he thought Procedure 91 would still have a strong legal case for surviving a federal court challenge.

Let the will of the peopleindividuals be embraced, Johnson informed members of the Joint Committee on Implementing Measure 91.

Bovett and ODay suggested in their memo that requiring regional governments to accept retail marijuana establishments could contravene of federal courts givenconsidered that the drug is still prohibited under federal law.

Its one thing, Bovett told the committee, for a state to say it wont prosecute anybody for having small quantitiespercentages of cannabis. Its another to urge a city or county to accept an activity that is still illegal under federal law, he stated.

Bovett and ODay argued that even under state law, cities and counties have the capability to go around Procedure 91 to impose taxes and have more latitude in restricting or prohibiting retail sales.

David Fidanque, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon, stated after the hearing that it may well be that cannabis taxes imposed by regions prior to Procedure 91 was passed are legal. For that reason, he stated legislators should pass a law making it crystal clear that regional taxes are restricted.

Measure 91 says that retail sales can only be banned in a city or county if regional voters collect enough trademarks to put the step on the November general election tally.

Cities and counties desire to enable their governing bodies to ban retail sales – or at a minimum send out a procedure to the ballot asking their voters to do so.

— Jeff Mapes

jmapes@oregonian.com!.?.! 503-221-8209 @Jeffmapes

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