BEND, Ore. - Marijuana is a hot topic among Oregon lawmakers right now, both in Salem and on Capitol Hill, and the impacts of the proposed legislation, if successful, will be felt on the High Desert.
Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., has reintroduced a piece of legislation with the fitting number of S 420. It calls for the legalization of marijuana at the federal level.
Currently 33 states, including Oregon have legalized marijuana either recreationally, medically or both.
Wyden's bill proposes the federal government remove criminal penalties for individuals and businesses complying with state marijuana law.
That would allow for access to banking, bankruptcy protection, marijuana research and advertising.
Industry experts like Stephanie Marshall, an attorney with Clifton Cannabis Law in Bend, say it’s a small step, but it would be helpful for everyone trying to follow the law.
"People who are in the industry in states where it's legal would no longer have that federal cloud and the fear what might come along with federal enforcement at the federal level," Marshall said Friday.
Meanwhile in Salem, a bill under review would allow Oregon to export excess marijuana to other states that have also legalized weed. In order for that to work, the importing states would also need to pass a law legalizing such imports.
Currently marijuana is legal in the State of Oregon, but illegal federally. That means, Oregonians are not allowed to export cannabis over state lines. But a new bill proposed would change that, giving growers permission to export to states that also have legalized marijuana.
This bill, if passed, would lay the groundwork for conducted marijuana business across state lines -- if the federal legislation became law.
Jeremy Kwit, the owner of Substance Cannabis Market in Bend, compares the legalization of cannabis to the federal government lifting the prohibition on alcohol.
"We can model our regulations very much like alcohol and treat cannabis like alcohol and export cannabis like we do alcohol," Kwit. "A lot of craft cannabis companies would thrive, and the boon to rural economies -- of which there are many in Oregon -- would be tremendous."
Oregon currently has excess marijuana and advocates say allowing growers to export it out of state or even out of country, would regulate and bring in tax revenue for something that's already happening.
That in turn would keep the tax revenue in state.
"I don’t think we’re reinventing the wheel. People enjoy alcohol, people enjoy cannabis in Oregon and nationwide, and so we’re just providing them with safer and more access and at the same time we’re taking out the criminal element and rewarding the state with taxation revenue they critically need to fund schools and other critical operations," Kwit said.
The bills are both in early stages.