The People Have Spoken | The Source Weekly - Bend, Oregon

The People Have Spoken

Weed has never been more popular

Americans' opinions about cannabis have changed dramatically over the last decade and are now "nearly the reverse" of what they were as recently as 2006, according to a new poll by the Pew Research Center. The poll, conducted in late August and early September, found that 57 percent of adults favor legalizing cannabis and just 37 percent favor keeping cannabis illegal. Just a decade ago, only 32 percent favored legalization and 60 percent favored prohibition.

While opinions nationwide are changing as Americans in many states become more familiar with legal cannabis, opinions in states where cannabis is legal for both medicinal and recreational use are especially favorable. In Oregon, a poll by DHM Research taken on the second anniversary of the state's popular vote to legalize cannabis found that 61 percent of Oregonians think legalization of recreational cannabis has had a positive impact on the state.

That is higher than the 56 percent who voted for legalization, indicating that Oregon's grand experiment with legal cannabis is widely seen as a success. Less than one-third of Oregonians think legalization has had a negative effect on the state.

A sizable majority of Oregonians also oppose local bans on recreational cannabis sales, a law that was crafted by the Legislature and not part of the legalization vote in 2014. Statewide, 60 percent of Oregonians oppose local sales bans. But this fall, over 50 cities and counties will vote on whether to ban recreational cannabis sales, and many are expected to pass.

Local sales taxes on recreational cannabis are especially popular in Oregon, with 69 percent of voters approving of such taxes. Many see this as a surprising level of approval in a state with no general sales tax. Oregon law allows local governments to impose a tax of up to 3 percent on cannabis sales. The local tax, if approved by voters, is in addition to the 17 percent statewide tax on sales that will be in place as of Jan. 1.

The Oregon Department of Revenue says 106 communities will vote on the local tax this November. One such community is Portland, where city officials estimate the tax would generate at least $3- to $5-million annually for the city.

Another city with a looming vote on a local recreational cannabis tax is Bend, where Bloom Well owner Jeremy Kwit referenced the city's divisive road maintenance issue by calling the tax "pot for potholes." But the tax revenue will go into the city's general fund, so the City Council may decide to put the money to other uses. (See our Elections coverage in this issue for our endorsement of the Bend pot tax measure.)

As with most issues in contemporary American politics, opinions both locally and nationally tend to break down by party affiliation. Nationwide, Democrats favor legalization 60 to 30 percent, whereas a small majority of Republicans, 55 percent, still oppose legalization; 52 percent of Oregon Republicans still view legal cannabis negatively.

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