Recreational cannabis became legal in Oregon back in 2014 through Measure 91. If local voters opposed legalization, the state’s lawmakers allowed townships, boroughs, and municipalities to ban cannabis businesses in their areas. Since then, 19 counties and 86 cities in Oregon have banned cannabis growers, retailers and other professionals. That number seems to be puzzlingly high, especially since you’d think local governments would want a piece of the cannabis tax pie. Apparently, that is not so for these places in Oregon. Places with bans on cannabis businesses don’t receive any tax revenue and also lose out on the benefits that come with new, emerging industries. These local bans on cannabis businesses could be having a hugely negative impact on the economy and on the state’s job market as a whole.
Economic analysts and cannabis business experts are saying that bans on licensed recreational businesses could result in millions of dollars of lost economic activity. The Statesman Journal reports that Marion County alone could lose upwards of $110 million in potential cannabis related sales and other industry revenue, should these businesses be forced to relocate. Not only could these bans hurt local economies, but they’re outright reducing the number of jobs at a time when the U.S. economy and job market could use more available jobs for those who are out of work.
These bans are temporary in counties with less than 55 percent of voters rejecting legal sales. The issue must be voted on again. In counties with more than 55 percent rejecting legalization, local governments can outright ban cannabis businesses – despite it being legal at the state level.
In typical politician fashion, Marion County Commissioner Kevin Cameron deflected questions about the potential loss in economic activity and stunted job growth in his area. The County Commissioner said those figures could be right, and that he didn’t know. He was quick to point out that he thought enough cannabis is being grown already.
Who gives you the right to determine how much cannabis is enough, Mr. Cameron? Especially when taxpaying voters in your state – those who fund your salary – have already decided that recreational cannabis should be legal. With so many Americans out of work, can you really afford to be so quick to dismiss cannabis business activity? For what? Because some people think cannabis shops will somehow “hurt their children”? And yet, surely liquor stores and beer distributors are still open and likely functioning at a high economic level.