Pubdate: Sun, 22 Jul 2012
Source: Albany Democrat-Herald (OR)
Copyright: 2012 Lee Enterprises


Going back in history is impossible, but Oregon might try something 
that comes close this fall.

On the general election ballot, we'll find a citizen initiative to 
legalize marijuana for adults and allow the substance to be grown and 
sold under licenses from the state.

Law enforcement generally is expected to be against the measure. So 
probably will be a lot of other interests.

But it is worth remembering that marijuana has not been illegal all 
that long, depending on your perspective. Congress included it when 
it passed the Controlled Substances Act in 1935, and Oregon followed 
suit about the same time.

That means that when people now in their 90s were children, there was 
no law against marijuana, either in Oregon or on the federal level. 
And yet the country and the state survived. And so, obviously, did 
the folks who are still with us in their old age.

Americans faced huge problems in the early 1930s, the Depression 
among them, and the police were called for all kinds of crimes, but 
they didn't have to spend a lot of time chasing drug offenders or 
running them through the system.

Leafing through the brittle pages of the local paper shows no sign 
that the legality of marijuana was a fact in daily life in, say, 1925.

Maybe it wasn't available. Maybe there was no interest in it. The 
only thing we know is that it wasn't against the law.

A bound volume of the Democrat-Herald from that year happens to be at 
hand. It proves nothing, but it's interesting nevertheless.

It's not as though trouble was a stranger in Oregon that year. In 
October, a man was scheduled for trial in Salem for first degree 
murder. He and two others had broken out of the state prison in 
August, and two prison guards had died "in the fight that followed."

The same week, a man filed suit in Linn County for $10,000 over the 
death of his wife, who drowned when a car went into the "Albany 
ditch" south of town because of excessive speed - 25-30 miles an 
hour, the suit estimated - through a curve.

The driver's wife also downed, the paper said, while both men 
"escaped death by climbing from the car as it sank into the water."

There was more.

In June that year, the editor of the Cowlitz County News was shot to 
death after what United Press described as political fight of unusual 
bitterness, and in October a person of interest in the case was found 
in Oregon and taken to the Washington town.

But subsequent reports named the motive as revenge and the suspects 
as two promoters of a prize fight the paper opposed. The editor had 
"printed publicity against it which made it fall through."

About that time near Jefferson, an automobile accident claimed the 
life of a Portland man when his car skidded on the Pacific Highway 
and overturned. Estimated speed: 25 mph.

The paper had public safety news of a less fatal nature as well. A 
warrant was issued for he arrest of a car salesman "who is alleged to 
have disappeared from Albany last Thursday driving a touring car 
belonging to the company." The man had family in Canada, the story 
said, implying that's where he was headed.

Again, none of this proves anything. But you can go through paper 
after paper of that month, October 1925, and find no news about 
trouble with drugs.

Liquor, yes. Two Oregon prohibition agents were arrested on suspicion 
of having seized illegal moonshine in Marion County and selling it.

Does that tell us something? Maybe not. But then again...

Now, it seems that every other item in the pubic safety log has 
something to do with marijuana and other drugs. Wouldn't it be 
helpful if -as in the 1920s - the police did not need to worry about 
that any more? (hh)
- ---
MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom