| January 8, 2015
1. Oregon, Alaska Plan & Prepare for Legal Marijuana
In November 2014, Oregon and Alaska followed Washington and Colorado in legalizing recreational marijuana. While the right of Oregonians and Alaskans to grow marijuana at home begins early on, the commercial market and regulatory system will not begin for one to two years, due to the language in Ballot Measure 91 (OR) & Ballot Measure 2 (AK).
Each ballot measure requires the state to design and construct a commercial market within the bounds laid out in the voter-approved language. Each measure also charges the respective state legislatures and alcohol regulatory bodies to work together to design regulations governing legal marijuana. The latter is where the action will be in 2015. It will be important to watch what Oregon and Alaska decide in setting up rules to govern this new area of policy. These rules may well determine the success or failure of marijuana policy in each state, and the path taken will also offer insight into how states are learning from each other as this policy area expands.
Finally, and of particular note, Oregon will become the first state to legalize marijuana that shares a border with a state (WA) that has already approved legalization. Watching Oregon’s commercial and regulatory choices will be crucial in understanding whether and to what extent states may strive for marijuana market advantages vis-à-vis bordering states. Decisions over taxation in Oregon suggest this may be part of the political, policy, and economic calculus.