The short modern history of legal marijuana in Oregon goes like this: In 1973, Oregon became the first state to decriminalize the use of marijuana, making possession of less than an ounce akin to getting a traffic ticket. In 1998 voters approved a ballot initiative establishing a medical marijuana program, the second one in the nation after California in 1996. In 2014 Oregon became the fourth state after Colorado, Washington and Alaska to legalize recreational use of marijuana. The 2014 law also allowed Oregon residents to grow up to four plants. On October 1, 2015, people in Oregon aged 21 and over could purchase marijuana from licensed dispensaries in municipalities and counties that approved retail sales.
And then the great Oregon green rush began. It was a stoned stampede if there is such an oxymoronic image. Pot use in Oregon is the most beautiful peaceful democratic happening I’ve seen in my lifetime. Over the decades, I voted for legalization multiple times via poorly conceived ballot measures. They were all crushed. My mother voted against every one of them.
Then one day, my mother didn’t. Then came sweet leafy victory, and it almost makes one believe in the power of direct democracy, which of course doesn’t have anything to do with the Presidential election and certainly should.
I love watching the revolution unfold. (And I don’t even use pot!) It’s transforming the state’s economy and cultural groove. I can’t wait until the rural dispensaries join the Chambers of Commerce and enter floats in parades and sponsor 4-H events. Fire up all the abandoned kilns in high schools around the state and start having students learn how to make proper ceramic pipes and bongs. The community college associate degrees in cultivation are coming, too. The industry, and that’s exactly what it is, organized a political lobby as well. Imagine those meetings in smoke-filled rooms!
Dog Walker, Pineapple Chunk, Jonah, Obama, Queen Funk, Flo, Crater Lake, Violet Delight, Happy Accident, Bruce Banner, Homer Simpson. These are names for buds on sale at Oregon Coast dispensaries. I must say, they handily beat out titles of Oregon Coast craft beers. But…I have to ask…where the hell is the Tom McCall strain? He was Oregon’s Governor in 1973 when he signed that pot decriminalization bill into progressive law. He was a Republican! Someone get on that.
Oregon’s visionary law was the slow sticky genesis of everything modern marijuana in the future nation known as the United States of Marijuana. The terrible destructive reign of alcohol in America will come to an end in less than a generation. When it happens, we’ll be a much better country, I assure you. Our foreign policy will be distinctly different. We’ll finally save the whales and let beavers do their thing to heal our watersheds. We’ll garden more, play flutes, and bring back corduroy and macramé to its rightful place in fashion.
Perhaps the only thing some of us might lament with legalization is the extinction of the shifty pot dealer who overstays his welcome or dilutes the product with oregano. He was an American cultural icon who will go the way of the Pony Express rider and the newspaper delivery boy. So it goes.
I sense that even if a visitor to Oregon has no interest in pot, they will investigate the marijuana retail scene out of sheer curiosity or historical value. I’ve actually seen this with my own eyes with cruise ship passengers flooding downtown Astoria. The Oregon Coast’s pot shops particularly reflect the contrasting approaches of legally selling marijuana to the public. You might get the jewelry-store/dentist office aesthetic with a hot young tech running the front desk or the dank, beaded basement of a bespectacled stoner uncle who worships Frank Zappa. From what I can determine, there isn’t much in between. I hope there never is.
As of this writing, there may well be over 70 dispensaries on the Oregon Coast—Seventy! It’s the new cloud cover, the new Oregon Coast Pot Trail up and down Highway 101. It’s rapidly becoming a tourist road trip destination attracting customers from all over the country, if not the world. The gospel is out. How could it not with access to free beaches, jetties, yurts, driftwood forts, forested trails, keyhole limpets, lighthouses, tribal casinos, mushrooms, secret coves, osprey nests, clearcuts, fishing ports, dive bars, bonfires and mermaids? Some of the pot shops even have ocean views! There are even special products for uptight dogs!
All across Oregon, the tax revenue is pouring in. Entrepreneurs have: created hundreds of living wage jobs, many in poorer rural areas; repurposed hundreds of formerly abandoned buildings and added them to property tax rolls; let loose an exploding market for seeds, clones, concentrates, tinctures and edibles; established multiple marijuana print and online media empires which have generated millions of dollars of advertising and untold profits for digital and ink printing businesses. Let us not also forget the millions of tax dollars saved from ending the insane incarceration for marijuana-related crimes, a dramatic reduction of illegal grow operations on private and public land, and a new jargon for all things pot production that will blow your mind and make you laugh at the same time. There isn’t a shred of irony to the pot revolution in Oregon. How could there be when it was 40 years in the fomenting?
I see no end in sight to the benefits of pot in Oregon, although the kinks of production/selling are still being worked out. They will be soon. Marijuana will continue to integrate itself subtlety into everyday Oregon life and eventually smooth its way into tailgates at college football games. Why other states don’t legalize it immediately is beyond rational comprehension. That’s a self-inflicted, largely red-state problem and a needlessly dumb one. Their legislators can drink themselves to death and watch their states get left far behind in the vapor. Let them eat Bud.
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