Rep. Peter Buckley throws support behind legal pot measure

Rep. Peter Buckley throws support behind legal pot measure
In this Thursday, Oct. 13, 2011 photo, medical marijuana grower James Bowman, right, explains changes he would like to see in Oregon's medical marijuana law to state lawmakers Rep. Peter Buckley, D-Ashland, center, and Sen. Alan Bates, D-Ashland, left, outside Jacksonville, Ore. (AP Photo/Jeff Barnard)

MEDFORD, Ore. (AP) — A prominent state lawmaker has given his support to Measure 80, an initiative that would legalize marijuana.

State Rep. Peter Buckley has served as co-chairman of the Legislature's Ways and Means Committee for the past two sessions.

The Ashland Democrat told the Mail Tribune newspaper he supports regulating marijuana in a manner similar to the regulation of alcohol under the Oregon Liquor Control Commission. Legalization would take the "black market" out of Oregon, he said.

Oregon voters will decide this November on the Oregon Cannabis Tax Act. The measure would legalize, regulate and tax marijuana consumed by adults.

Buckley said medical marijuana, which the state already allows, has legal loopholes that have frustrated law enforcement and led to abuse.

"I do think it's a problem with some medical marijuana growers," he said. "They've gotten greedy."

According to the YES on 80 campaign, legalizing marijuana could save $60 million annually in law enforcement costs. Taxing it could bring in an extra $140 million. Under the proposal, marijuana would be purchased through state-run stores.

Even if the law is passed, the federal government might question Oregon's authority to legalize the drug. But Buckley said the national debate could change if enough states follow Oregon's lead.

"Hopefully, the federal government will see the light," he said.

State Rep. Dennis Richardson, R-Central Point, co-chaired with Buckley the powerful Ways and Means Committee. He doesn't support legalizing marijuana but said the state needs a rational debate about whether it wants to legalize cannabis or start cracking down on violations.

Like Buckley, he finds the current medical marijuana law flawed.

"It is basically legalization through a back-door approach," Richardson said.

Though Measure 80 would add tax dollars to the financially challenged state, Richardson said he's reluctant to create a new bureaucracy to track the process and is wary of creating another "sin tax."

Neither Buckley nor Richardson has a medical marijuana card.

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Information from: Mail Tribune, http://www.mailtribune.com/

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.