By Gray Rohrer

Recreational marijuana has brought trouble to Oregon, a law officer said Tuesday, as Florida lawmakers prepared to deal with the chance that Sunshine State voters could legalize pot next year.

The House Health and Human Services Committee heard testimony from Chris Gibson, a narcotics officer in Oregon, where marijuana was legalized in 2015.

He listed a litany of problems that followed, including an increase in positive drug tests in the workforce, legal marijuana being siphoned into the black markets of other states and a spike in the use of other, still illegal drugs.

Gibson stopped short of calling marijuana legalization a “gateway” to other drugs, as Rep. Mel Ponder, R-Destin, suggested, but said, “we have seen reported drug use in Oregon increase across the board ... we’re seeing users that are using everything all together.”

The presentation was the latest in a string of speakers planned by committee chairman Ray Rodrigues, R-Estero.

A Harvard medical school professor spoke of the medical dangers of marijuana last month, and Rodrigues says he plans to have other law enforcement officials from Colorado, another state where marijuana is legal.

Rodrigues says he wants lawmakers to be prepared in case one of the two proposed constitutional amendments gets on the ballot and wins approval by voters in 2020. Rodrigues is term-limited, but the Legislature would have to pass a bill setting up parameters for a newly legal marijuana industry, just as it has for medical marijuana.

Both legalization proposals face several hurdles before they could get onto the ballot. One has gathered about 52,000 petitions, according to state data, and the other has gathered about 93,000, far short of the 766,200 needed by Feb. 1. The Florida Supreme Court would also have to approve any ballot proposal, something that’s far from certain given the court’s staunchly conservative majority.

Gibson also cited overproduction in Oregon as a factor that’s led to legal marijuana being illegally exported to other states, including Florida. Positive workforce drug tests for marijuana in Oregon increased from 2 percent in 2012 to 4 percent in 2017, according to data presented by Gibson.

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