On Friday, March 17, I got up at 4:30 am, left the house at 6:30, and arrived in Salem before 8. Was I super eager to get to Salem for... uh, whatever it is Salem is so well known for? No, friends, I was dressed in my finery to lobby my elected officials on the dangers of balloon animals and children. Wait, no... sorry. I was there to lobby for cannabis.

This is a challenging time for Oregon. We are staring down a $1.6 billion budget shortfall, and any potential solutions are going to cause some real pain and suffering. At the time of my visit to the State Capitol, the legislature was wrestling with nearly 3,000 House and Senate bills, so I wasn’t exactly expecting a laser-like focus on my specific, cannabis-related concerns.

That said, I was pleasantly surprised at the number of meetings I was able to take with representatives and their staffs, and the genuine interest and thoughtful questions that each get-together produced.

There are numerous upcoming bills relating to the jazz tobacco, but I was there to specifically advocate for one of them and against two others. If you can stay awake through the rest of this wonkfest of a column, here are the positions I’m taking on each.

House Bill 2204

What the bill does: Upon passage, local governments would have the authority to create a tax on marijuana retail items at a rate of up to 8 percent.

Much like venereal diseases, new taxes are rarely a thing anyone wants, or enjoys once they have them. But Oregon’s aforementioned budget shortfall means municipalities are going to need to fill in the gaps that are left after the state budget is balanced.

As of now, the state collects a 17 percent tax on cannabis, and local governments can opt to add up to 3 percent more. That 20 percent is already a hefty surcharge. It’s far better than our neighbors to the north in Washington, who are getting taxed 37 percent on their cannabis purchases. (That number is motivating a large number of Vancouver-area residents to make a quick zip across the river to stock up.)

But the tax rate on non-regulated can-nabis—i.e. what you get from your “guy”—is still zero percent. The industry already pays more than its fair share in permits, licenses, and other fees that are NOT placed upon the alcohol industry. This is unfair. The cannabis industry needs to stabilize and grow before more taxes are piled on. No on HB 2204.

Senate Bill 307

AKA the “social consumption” bill. In brief, this bill would allow for consumption and sale of cannabis items at temporary events, the establishment of cannabis lounges, and some other good ideas. (Full disclosure: I signed on as a supporter of this bill, which should shock absolutely no one.)

I’ve mentioned in the past how absurd it is to promote the sale of cannabis to residents and tourists, charge them 20 percent tax, and then make them criminals for consuming it anywhere but in a private home.

I’ve worked with numerous low-income Oregon Medical Marijuana Program (OMMP) patients who are seniors in Section 8 housing, where consuming in their residence can mean eviction.

So, yeah, I’m in favor of not criminalizing cannabis consumers, nor putting pain-ridden poor seniors on the streets. This is a no-brainer. Yes on SB 307.

House Bill 2198

AKA the “consolidation” bill. This would move the OMMP from the control of the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) to the Oregon Liquor Control Commission (OLCC).

While I know every Oregonian loves the OLCC—and changing its name to the Oregon Liquor and Cannabis Commission would be kind of cool—this one gets a thumbs down.

Support The Portland Mercury

First, things are precarious enough for Oregon’s cannabis industry, and stopping to take a breath until licenses are fully issued before taking any more giant steps is our wisest move. Since recreational programs are now under scrutiny by Jeff “drugs are bad, mmmkay?” Sessions, putting all of Oregon’s cannabis access into one basket is a risky bet. Maintaining a separate medical program protects producers and consumers. Let’s see what Attorney General Barney Fife has planned before we toss out the OMMP. No on HB 2198.

As always, you can do your part by con-tacting your elected representative to share your feelings. (About pending legislation, not how your dad didn’t show you enough affection.) A quick call or email can make a difference. Get involved.