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Entries in Costco (2)

Thursday
Oct172013

Deregulating Booze; Regulating Pot

The current tight regulation of alcohol and prohibition of marijuana may no longer reflect majority public sentiment leaning in Oregon, pointing to some combination of legislative and ballot measure action as early as next year.

At the center of this changing landscape is the Oregon Liquor Control Commission (OLCC), which may see part of its job slip while picking up a whole new portfolio of regulation. The OLCC is an agency in the midst of its own transition, with a new chair, Rob Patridge, and a newly nominated executive director, Steve Marks. Both have strong ties to Governor Kitzhaber, who can be expected at some point to weigh in on these countervailing directions.

Oregonians have voted on marijuana measures before. In 1998, Oregon voters approved the Oregon Medical Marijuana Act, allowing patients to use marijuana for an expanding range of medical conditions. Following the implementation of the medical marijuana act, Oregon legislators moved to decriminalize possession and use of small amounts of marijuana.

In 2012, despite pressure from national interest groups to take a more balanced approach, Oregon advocates placed the most liberal marijuana possession and legalization framework in the country on the Oregon ballot. Despite its failure, recent polling still shows that more than 60 percent of Oregonians favor a “legalize and tax it” strategy on marijuana. 

Today, three ballot measures addressing marijuana legalization are approved for circulation. This reality led Rep. Phil Barnhart (D-Eugene) to tell The Oregonian he was unimpressed with people who use marijuana, but if legislators didn’t figure out a solution to combat the failure of the prohibition of the drug, activists would. And, Oregonians would regret the outcome.

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Friday
Nov112011

Privatizing Liquor Sales – Is Oregon Next?

Expect politicking to begin in Oregon following Washington voter approval Tuesday of a Costco-bankrolled ballot measure to privatize state-run liquor stores and allow consumers to buy booze in grocery outlets.

Oregon has a similar liquor monopoly that purchases, distributes and sells distilled spirits. Despite grumbling and enterprising residents who pick up a trunk load of their favorite liquors in California or Nevada, there hasn't been much effort to remove the state monopoly. With the victory in Washington, don't be surprised to see that grumbling bubble to the surface in either significant legislation or a like-kind ballot measure.

Costco, which is based in Issaquah, Washington, dropped the lion's share of the $23 million contributed to pass Initiative 1183. It hasn't given any indication it will look to Oregon next, but most observers think it is logical to assume it would so it can consolidate purchasing for all of its West Coast outlets.

Joe Giliam, president of the Northwest Grocery Association, attributed the success of the initiative to convenience. "The voters would really like to have this convenience," Gilliam said.

Convenience is the reason why the Oregon Liquor Control Commission has experimented with placing state-run liquor stores inside grocery stores. OLCC has expressed interest in broadening the experiment, and the Washington vote on I-1183 probably provides additional impetus.

Passage of the Washington ballot measure may not be the last word. Washington operates 328 liquor outlets, about half run by state employees and the rest through contractors. State officials must close 164 state-owned stores and lay off more than 900 employees, who are members of a union. The 159 stores managed by private contractors may compete for licenses to continue to operate.

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