Guest post by Leland R. Berger*
Beginning today, October 17, 2018, any 18, 19 or 20-year-old Oregonian can depart from Union Station in Portland, ride a train for 8 hours, disembark at Pacific Central Station in Vancouver, British Columbia, and walk into a store and legally purchase cannabis. While Canada legalizes, Oregon businesses and public safety suffer from a glut in the adult use regulated market. An obvious solution is to lower the age for adult use cannabis in Oregon from 21 to 18.
In Oregon, the age of majority is 18. PSU’s Population Research Center’s Charles Rynerson estimates that in 2017 there were more than 160,000 Oregonians between 18 and 21 years of age. In 2017, researchers at the University of Michigan’s Insitute for Social Research at Ann Arbor published Volume II of their National Survey Results on Drug Use 1975-2017 “Monitoring the Future” estimating the percentage of cannabis consumers age 19-22 at roughly 40%. Beau Whitney of Whitney Economics opines that
the average adult use retail consumer spends about $100 a month at OLCC licensed adult use retail stores.
Crunching these numbers yields this result: Lowering the age for adult use from 21 to 18 creates approximately 64,000 new consumers. If they average $100 a month in retail purchases that will result in roughly $6.4 million in sales per month, and, at the 20% tax rate, approximately $2.6 million in state and local taxes per month or more than $30 million in taxes a year.
Why haven’t we done this already? Opponents advance two health-related arguments. First, they claim that brain development research supports a higher age for state_sanctioned cannabis use. However, on April 18, 2018, a peer-reviewed published study entitled Association of Cannabis with Cognitive Functioning in Adolescents and Young Adults: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis found that previous studies of cannabis in youth may have overstated the magnitude and persistence of cognitive deficits associated
with use. This study was not able to demonstrate any cognitive deficits after three days of abstinence, diminishing concerns regarding long-term cognitive damage.
Second is the argument that cannabis smoke is as harmful as tobacco smoke. However, a 2012 study by UCLA’s School of Medicine’s Professor Donald P. Tashkin, entitled “Effects of Marijuana Smoking on the Lung” concludes “In summary, the accumulated weight of evidence implies far lower risks for pulmonary complications of even regular heavy use of marijuana compared with the grave pulmonary consequences of tobacco.”
Is this a solution looking for a problem? Where is the harm with current law?
Current Oregon law makes the possession or the attempted purchase of cannabis or a cannabis product a violation, punishable by a fine and a mandatory 6-month drivers’ license suspension (which a Judge can end early after 90 days). The Oregon Criminal Justice Commission reports that since legalization, over 600 18, 19 and 20-year-olds have been cited for this violation and over 500 have been convicted. Marion and Benton Counties were 1 and 2 in the number of citations and convictions; Willamette University presence in Marion County and Oregon State University’s in Benton County is not coincidental. The 2019 Oregon Legislature ought to reduce the age for the legal adult use of cannabis from 21 to 18.
*Leland Berger is a cannabis law reform activist and attorney who practices statewide as
Oregon CannaBusiness Compliance Counsel, LLC. He lives and works in inner Northeast Portland.