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Letter on recreational marijuana planned for Liquor Control Commission, lawmakers.



Gov. John Kitzhaber says he’s prepared to release a statement about what he wants the Oregon Liquor Control Commission and lawmakers to consider as they implement recreational use of marijuana in Oregon.

Kitzhaber, at a meeting Tuesday sponsored by The Associated Press, said he would present a “series of principles” probably later this week. He says more specific recommendations from him are likely to emerge later as the OLCC and lawmakers work through the process.

He says staff will be actively involved.

Although Kitzhaber plans a letter for OLCC, he acknowledges that lawmakers will have to be involved in some of the ideas he wants studied.

The five members of OLCC will begin a statewide tour soon to shape its rulemaking process, and lawmakers begin their 160-day session on Feb. 2.

Legalization of recreational use will start July 1, although OLCC licensing of retail sales is expected in another year or so, after it starts accepting applications Jan. 4, 2016. A special House-Senate committee also will focus on legalization, which voters approved as Measure 91 on Nov. 4.

Kitzhaber says he favors a merger of systems for medical marijuana, which voters approved in 1998, and recreational marijuana.

Measure 91 made no changes in the 1998 law allowing marijuana for medical uses, but some lawmakers have said they want to consider changes.

“I think you need to put them together,” Kitzhaber says. “It’s easier to ask questions when you do not have two separate systems operating.”

Kitzhaber, who was in his second term as governor back then, says lawmakers have since expanded the list of conditions that qualify for medical marijuana use. Among the conditions in the initial law were glaucoma and nausea associated with chemotherapy.

“It’s strayed quite a bit,” says Kitzhaber, formerly an emergency-room physician.

Of the almost 70,000 patients registered with the Oregon Medical Marijuana Program as of Jan. 1, more than 64,000 use it for severe pain; 9,379 for nausea, 3,633 for cancer and 1,074 for glaucoma. There are other qualifying conditions under the law, and patients can indicate multiple reasons for medical use.

Kitzhaber supported the 1998 ballot measure, but opposed Measure 91. Although he called legalization “inevitable,” Kitzhaber said during the campaign that Oregon should await lessons from Washington and Colorado, where voters approved legalization measures in 2012.

Among the questions Kitzhaber will raise is the number of plants the law allows someone to grow for personal use — four — weighed against the eight ounces under the law that someone can possess at home. (Public possession is limited to one ounce.)

“Allowing homegrown simply seems to be out of sync with a regulated market,” he says.

Kitzhaber also wants OLCC and lawmakers to show how a regulated market will reduce the black market for recreational marijuana, and what can be done to devise a test — comparable to a breath test for alcohol — for determining whether a driver is under the influence of marijuana.

Supporters have said the state tax set by Measure 91 should be low enough to encourage conversions from the black market, and that the measure requires officials to set under-the-influence testing requirements.

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