Pubdate: Wed, 08 Jun 2011
Source: Seattle Weekly (WA)
Copyright: 2011 Village Voice Media
Author: Keegan Hamilton


Our Neighbor's Twisted Logic When It Comes to Kids And

The top federal prosecutor in Oregon and 33 of the state's district
attorneys announced last week that they are going to put an end to
prescription pot sales. The authorities say that although Oregon
currently has nearly 40,000 people enrolled in its voter-approved
medical-marijuana program, law enforcement must take action because
the system violates federal law and is "putting marijuana in the hands
of more and more healthy kids." But is that really true?

The first part, of course, is accurate: Oregon's medical-marijuana
system violates federal law. This is the same rationale used by
eastern Washington prosecutors for raiding Spokane dispensaries in
recent weeks. Pot is still a Schedule I controlled substance-along
with heroin, cocaine, and LSD-and therefore has no legitimate medical
use in the eyes of the federal government. There's no wiggle room
here; a law is a law is a law, and it is a prosecutor's duty to uphold
that law no matter how misguided or ineffective it may be.

And in Oregon, where voters approved medical marijuana in 1998,
selling weed in any way, shape, or form is still technically forbidden
by state law. Eligible patients must get their medical grass from
"registered grow sites" regulated by the Department of Health.
Dispensaries are not permitted, but disabled tokers are allowed to get
their daily doses from "designated primary caregivers."

Nevertheless, dozens of cannabis clubs have sprouted across Oregon
(mostly in Portland) over the past decade. These are places with
couches, vaporizers, and snacks where card-holding pot smokers can
use-and, in rare cases, replenish-their supply. These are the type of
businesses that have the state's top lawmen in a tizzy.

U.S. Attorney Dwight C. Holton, 33 district attorneys, the state
Sheriff's Association, and the Oregon Association of Chiefs of Police
declared last Friday, June 3, that "individuals and businesses that
conduct sales of marijuana face the risk of prosecution, civil
enforcement action, and seizure of assets."

Justifying the crackdown, the prosecutors have repeatedly stated that
the state's medical-marijuana system is making it easier for kids to
get high. In addition to Holton's claims about weed finding its way
into "the hands of more and more healthy kids," Marion County District
Attorney Walt Beglau made this proclamation: "Drug traffickers are
hiding behind the medical-marijuana law to protect their sham
operations. We have to rein in this outlaw atmosphere before any kid
can walk into a storefront on Main Street in any town in Oregon and
buy marijuana illegally."

Holy crap, if kids are buying bags of reefer as if they were gummy
bears, then statistics about teenage marijuana use must be off the
charts! Yet when the Partnership for Drug-Free America surveyed 3,287
ninth through 12th graders in 2009, it found that pot use by high
schoolers nationwide has actually decreased since 1998, the year
Oregon adopted its medical-marijuana system.

According to the polling, in 2009 25 percent of teens reported smoking
marijuana in the past month. The previous year it was 19 percent, and
before that the figures had been steadily declining for the entire
decade. In 1998, 27 percent of teens surveyed said they had smoked pot

What's more, according to a 2008 study by the Marijuana Policy
Project, the declines in teenage marijuana use are even more
pronounced in states that allow medical pot. "No state with a
medical-marijuana law has experienced an increase in youth marijuana
use since their law's enactment," the research found. "In fact, all
states have reported overall decreases-exceeding 50 percent in some
age groups-strongly suggesting that enactment of state
medical-marijuana laws does not increase teen marijuana use."

In Oregon specifically, the pot-smoking trends "are slightly less
favorable than nationwide trends, although teen use is still down
overall." The study, which relied on data provided by the Oregon
Department of Health, found that among more than 20,000 eighth and
11th graders, pot use declined across the board-up to 33 percent in
some demographics-from 1998 to 2007.

A spokeswoman for the Oregon U.S. Attorney's office did not
immediately respond to a phone call and e-mail from Seattle Weekly
asking about the discrepancy between the rhetoric in their press
release and the actual statistics. Until they get back to us, it's
probably safe to assume they've just been blowing smoke.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Richard R Smith Jr.