Two Roseburg lawmakers say it would be best to wait and see what happens in Colorado and Washington before Oregonians consider legalizing marijuana.
Republican Sen. Jeff Kruse said if a bill to legalize recreational marijuana use is introduced in next month’s legislative session, he doesn’t think it will have a “snowball’s chance of passing.”
Colorado and Washington have both legalized marijuana, and dispensaries in Colorado this month began selling pot to recreational users. Washington is still writing regulations.
Kruse called it a “nightmare” in Colorado, saying marijuana is harmful to young people’s health. He joined Republican Rep. Tim Freeman at a town hall meeting Wednesday at Roseburg City Hall.
Freeman said Oregon, which allows marijuana for medicinal use, has an opportunity to see the effects of legalized recreational marijuana before considering it.
“Oregon has been first in a lot of things and has been unsuccessful,” he told the crowd of about 20. “We can let somebody else for once be the guinea pig to see if it works or doesn’t work.”
The Legislature will convene Feb. 3 for a 35-day session. Aside from meeting for a fewer number of days, Freeman said another challenge will be the politics that can come into play when three-quarters of legislators are up for re-election.
Among the issues will be gun control, specifically whether to require background checks for all gun transfers, including those done privately and between family members. The difficulties with policing transactions would lead to firearm registration, Freeman said.
“The challenge is, if the bill passes, the very next step will be the Legislature will ask the state police why they aren’t enforcing it, but they can’t without gun registration,” he said.
“It’s being presented for purely political reasons and no other reasons,” Kruse said. “Senate Democrats think they can score some points in the election.”
Both lawmakers blasted the debacle over the state’s medical insurance exchange market, Cover Oregon.
Freeman blamed the Legislature for not being involved in developing the program, while Kruse pointed the finger at Gov. John Kitzhaber because he oversees the agencies involved with the project.
“So far none of the mud has stuck to John’s skirt, but I think it belongs there,” Kruse said.
Kruse predicted Cover Oregon will end in six months and that the state will probably default to the federal exchange. “The whole thing has been so mismanaged, it’s beyond belief,” he said.
Freeman is proposing creating a task force to look at why state information technology projects, like Cover Oregon, have failed in the last decade. He said other failures have occurred with the motor vehicle, employment department and court records.
“It’s got to be some kind of a systematic cultural way we are doing them because there’s so many failures,” Freeman said.
Kruse said he will reintroduce a bill to let the Roseburg High School Indians and other schools with Native American-themed nicknames to keep their mascots.
The bill passed last year, but was vetoed by Kitzhaber.
Unless the law changes, schools will have until 2017 to drop tribal mascots. Kruse proposes to give schools time to receive permission from the nearest tribe to keep their mascots.
Kitzhaber last year urged legislators to follow a policy adopted by the National Collegiate Athletic Association, which allows schools to use the name of a specific tribe with the tribe’s approval.
Kruse said he plans to introduce a constitutional amendment regarding the state superintendent of public instruction. Oregon a few years ago stopped electing the superintendent and instead the governor appoints a deputy superintendent.
“I think it’s inappropriate for the governor to run the education department,” Kruse said.
Kruse said he will propose a 20-member board select a superintendent. The board would be appointed by the governor from a pool of candidates selected by education officials.
•You can reach reporter Christina George at 541-957-4202 or at email@example.com.
We can let somebody else be the guinea pig to see if it works or doesn’t work.