When voters in Oregon agreed last year to banish prohibition and establish a legal framework for a statewide cannabis market, they had no idea that law enforcement was scheming to create a master plan aimed at squeezing pot dollars to spy on the state’s suppliers and vendors.
It appears as though the same green-eyed monsters that once fought the battle against black market marijuana have decided to wage war against the state’s legal cannabis industry. Reports indicate that the Oregon State Police recently put in a request for a $3.9 million raise in their annual budget to supplement the already $1.3 million the state approved earlier this year, so that cops could keep an eye on legal weed.
Although state police officials have refused to comment on the reasoning behind their proposed $5 million budget to act as the state’s Bud Brother, there is speculation that these demands stem from an outcry by the Oregon Liquor Control Commission, who have begged for the creation of “peace officers” to act as pot watchdogs similar to excise cops in the world of booze. Essentially, the state is asking for a department to be created to ensure weed is not being sold to minors and that businesses are paying their taxes.
There are some concerns, however, that establishing a supervisional program could potentially set the state’s legal home-growers up for unexpected shakedowns.
“You could potentially have a marijuana enforcement agent knocking on someone’s door to look at a home grow,” Senator Floyd Prozanski, who is part of the Senate Committee overseeing the cannabis trade, told Willamette Week. “I don’t think anyone on the committee would want them to have that broad of power.”
Nobody is trying to bust residents for growing five plants instead of four, said OLCC spokesman Tom Towslee, who says the commission is fine with limiting the authority of the pot police strictly to licensed facilities. “We have no conflict with the committee,” he said.
Although the state police is convinced that it will cost several million dollars more than what they have already been allotted to inspect retail pot shops for compliance issues, this does not necessarily mean they will be approved. In fact, the OLCC claims they only foresee the need for a special officer stationed in their office to field calls from state police when running information on individuals caught in possession of large amounts of marijuana. Otherwise, there is not much else to support the need for such a hefty increase to the budget.
So far, the state police’s proposal has not even been considered, and the Oregon Legislature must first approve it before it has a chance of becoming a reality. Yet, lawmakers are not likely to succumb to law enforcement’s request for additional funding until after they review the OLCC’s recent proposal for $10.5 million in start-up capital to launch the recreational pot market. This revenue will supposedly keep the agency’s weed dealings functional for the first two years, while it plots out a strategy to increase the state’s predicted tax revenue from $18 million to a number more comparable to their Rocky Mountain counterpart in Colorado.
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