Tuesday, March 07, 2017

Legal weed has boosted rural Oregon town, but is causing headaches across the border in Idaho

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Legal marijuana has helped revitalize a struggling rural Oregon town, but has led to controversy just across the border in Idaho, where the drug remains illegal, Sven Berg reports for the Idaho Statesman. The arrival of "green gold" has led to a mini-boom in Huntington, Ore., a town of 435 that has seen its population dwindle as businesses closed shop.

Now, "City Hall might reap enough tax money from marijuana and related sales to double the city’s $200,000 budget," Berg writes. Also, an influx of Idahoans crossing the border to buy marijuana has boosted the economy and helped local business, such as restaurants and stores, who serve marijuana customers while they wait for orders to be filled.

But all is not well 30 miles southeast of Huntington: in Idaho, where marijuana is illegal and Republican Gov. Butch Otter, who has challenged President Trump "to reverse his predecessor’s failure to enforce federal marijuana laws," said he "is sick of neighboring states flouting the federal government’s ban of the drug," Berg writes. On Feb. 24, "12 of 14 cars parked at 420Ville, one of Huntington’s two dispensaries, had Idaho license plates."

Elisha Figueroa, who leads Idaho’s Office of Drug Policy, "said legalizing marijuana in Oregon is like illegally polluting rivers or the air in a way that damages neighboring states," Berg writes. "Unlike pollution, marijuana mostly affects the people who are breaking the law. But the public is on the hook for law enforcement, incarceration and public health costs. Figueroa pointed to studies that found a variety of marijuana-related safety and public health problems have surfaced in states where the drug is legal." She told him, “All of these things cost taxpayers an enormous amount of money because of the bad decisions of our neighboring states."

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