In late July, in a rare front page editorial, the New York Times offered its endorsement for the federal government to legalize recreational marijuana. And, last week, proponents for legalizing marijuana in the State of Oregon—an initiative for November's ballot—announced they already had raised over $1 million for their campaign.
Yes, public sentiment certainly seems to be rolling in one direction.
But what happens when the genie is let out of the bong?
The answer to that question is largely being answered by the financial argument that taxing the sale of recreational marijuana will provide windfalls for cash-strapped states, and boost budgets for schools and law enforcement. And certainly, some cities in Oregon have begun to craft responses in anticipation of legalization (especially considering that the proposed ordinance explicitly only allows the state—and not local entities to tax recreational marijuana). Anticipating the passage of the marijuana ordinance, for example, the City of Ashland smartly has worked through an ordinance that taxes pot sales for local funds, as it is anticipated that any—and only—city ordinances passed before the November ballot will grandfather in those local taxes. The City of Portland also has convened a 20-member marijuana advisory committee toward the same end.
But what is Bend doing? Not much, so far.
Specifically, we suggest that the City of Bend get a move on a taxing ordinance as well (tick tock; after November it will be a moot point); in addition, we highly recommend that Bend consider the impact on tourism here—and craft a game plan; asking the marijuana industry to grow organically would be like handing a carpenter a hammer and bong, but no blueprint.
Twenty-five years ago, when Deschutes opened the first brewery in Bend, no one predicted that beer would become part of the foundation for the local economy, with direct job creation from two dozen breweries to the indirect benefits of increased tourism as well as the brand-name marketing it has lent to Bend, with local icons like Mirror Pond now known throughout the United States because a beer is named after it.
Don't think that the marijuana industry will do the same?
Even last week when the Republican gubernatorial candidate Dennis Richardson, a Mormon and sworn opponent in his personal life of vices like beer, caffeine and certainly marijuana-stopped by our offices, he remarked that five years from now politics in Oregon will be greatly impacted by the legalization of marijuana, with lobbyists like the beer and spirits industries employ.
Likewise, marijuana will impact tourism and agriculture in Central Oregon. How it does so can happen in a controlled or uncontrolled manner.
Like the Ale Trail, do we want a "Hookah Trail" or, like the popular beer bus, a puff bus rolling down Bond Street? Do you want coffeeshops to sell local strains of marijuana in the same way they sell local IPAs and stouts? What about a hookah in the fire pit at 10 Barrel? Local marijuana on local restaurant menus? Recommended pairings? Marijuana tasters?
And then there is the agriculture implications: marijuana CSAs? Booths at farmers' markets? Recognizing the importance of hops to the state economy, Oregon State University has invested in research, with backing from Worthy Brewing. Should the new OSU-Cascades campus become the nation's leader in marijuana crops?
Legalized marijuana is coming. What is yet to be determined is how it will roll out in Central Oregon.
What's your move, Bend?