Ryan Alexander-Tanner

I HEARD WEED is still not happening in parts of Oregon. What's the latest?

Things are coming around slowly. You know: strikes and gutters, ups and downs.

You may recall that last week, when you dropped off your ballot for the presidential, state, and local races, pot was not on the ballot. For people in Grant and Klamath counties, the opposite was true. Both counties voted on measures to allow medical and retail facilities, and to allow citizens of the empire to access weed as we do here in Portland. Regrettably, both measures failed.

If you have followed the legalization story in Oregon, you may know that the state is a patchwork of pot-friendly and prohibition zones. This is because when our legislators implemented pot legalization, they did a funny thing: They gave cities and counties the right to opt out of marijuana altogether. This occurred due to political opposition from rural counties and their constituents, who generally opposed marijuana and felt overrun by less conservative, urban areas. Another way of saying that is those counties were out-voted, complained, and got special rules.

Whatever you make of it, the result was that an Oregon city or county can opt out of nearly all recreational pot activity by administrative fiat if it voted 55 percent or more against Measure 91 (the pot initiative you supported a while back). If the city or county voted less than 55 percent against Measure 91, or for the Measure, it can adopt an opt-out ordinance. Such ordinance will stand if approved through a local vote, which must be taken by November. Finally, if a county opts out, that action does not apply to its "incorporated" cities, and vice-versa.

In my day job, I speak regularly with clients about the individual situations in their respective counties. Until a few weeks ago, people in Deschutes County were somewhat worried about the situation there. Although Bend, the county seat, had not opted out of marijuana, the county at large had put the skids on things while Commissioners gathered information. Finally, Deschutes County opted back in. Other jurisdictions, like the City of Fairview (between Gresham and Hood River), have gone to the extreme of prohibiting medical marijuana grows, even though their citizens supported Measure 91. That seems undemocratic.

To date, most of the opt-out action has been east of the Cascades. Grant County, for example, is dry, dusty, and sparsely populated, out near the Malheur Wildlife Refuge. Klamath County, conversely, has significant pot activity, with over 66,000 citizens and 788 registered medical marijuana growers. Many of those growers were active in getting this issue on last week's ballot, but failed to win hearts and minds.

Unless you have a road trip planned, none of this should affect you directly. Note, however, that prohibition locales cannot share in the already significant statewide tax revenues from weed sales. That means more money for schools, services and law enforcement here in Portland, but none for the opt-out areas. Strikes and gutters, indeed.