Pubdate: Sun, 07 Oct 2012
Source: Mail Tribune, The (Medford, OR)
Copyright: 2012 The Mail Tribune
Note: Only prints LTEs from within it's circulation area, 200 word count limit
Author: John Darling


Experts, Politicians and Others Debate Measure 80, the Attempt to 
Legalize Cannabis in Oregon

A measure before voters Nov. 6 would allow adults to buy marijuana 
legally from their neighborhood, state-run pot store.

Supporters say Measure 80 would create a lucrative revenue stream for 
state coffers and reduce money spent on police, courts and jails to 
enforce existing marijuana laws.

Opponents believe the act would increase abuse and illegal sales of 
the drug, especially out of state, and they criticize a provision 
that would require the state attorney general to not only "vigorously 
defend" the law but advocate for a federal act legalizing marijuana, as well.

Whatever the outcome, both sides agree approving the Oregon Cannabis 
Tax Act would put the state on track for a head-on collision with 
federal anti-marijuana laws - and likely a Supreme Court test case 
over states' rights.

Washington and Colorado also have marijuana legalization measures on 
the Nov. 6 ballot.

What the measure would do

Measure 80 would legalize and tax marijuana in Oregon much like alcohol is now.

It would establish a state commission that would license growers, buy 
marijuana from them, and sell it to consumers through state-run stores.

Residents older than 21 could grow and use their own marijuana 
legally. And hemp could be grown for fiber, protein or oil without 
regulation, license or fee.

The act includes provisions to ensure no marijuana is sold to minors, 
to discourage illicit sales, to protect the Oregon Medical Marijuana 
Act and to ensure state-sold marijuana is safe and of good quality.

The proposed law is spearheaded by the National Organization for the 
Reform of Marijuana Laws. The group's website,, says it 
would generate $140 million a year for the state while cutting $61.5 
million in costs for law enforcement, judicial cases and corrections.

Under the act, 90 percent of the revenue from state marijuana sales 
would go to the general fund, 7 percent to drug treatment programs 
and 1 percent each to drug education in schools, promotion of the 
hemp industry and development of biodiesel fuel made from hemp seeds.

The pot would be sold at "safe access points" run by the state and 
could be smoked, ingested or vaporized for inhaling, said Lori 
Duckworth, director of Southern Oregon NORML in Medford.

"You'll see crime go down and the black market diminish," Duckworth 
said. "There'll be less access for our children because they're 
required to show ID. Law enforcement will be free to go chase real 
criminals and gangs and unregistered sex offenders. Meth and heroin 
are the real crimes here, not Johnny Pothead.

"This is making it safe for responsible adult use and taking it out 
of the hands of law enforcement," Duckworth said. "People smoke it 
whether it's legal or not. This is for people who smoke a doobie in 
their backyard, watch TV and go to bed, same as beer."

Jackson County District Attorney Mark Huddleston, who is retiring in 
December, disputes the notion legalizing marijuana would reduce the 
burden on law enforcement.

He believes violations would shift to those selling to minors, those 
selling home-grown on their own, and those selling marijuana out of 
state, where its quality undoubtedly would fetch a higher price.

"Legalization would encourage more people to get into sales. We're 
seeing that now, with medical marijuana," Huddleston said. "I 
anticipate it's not going to decrease our workload and it will 
increase the abuse and illegal sales. Law enforcement is still going 
to have to be investigating marijuana sales."

If pot is to be legalized, Huddleston said, this isn't the measure to 
do it with.

"It's too tempting. ... The way is to have it grown by the state and 
sold in only user quantities," he said.

Both Huddleston and retired Medford police Chief Randy Schoen fear 
Oregon's rich soils and mild climate, which are conducive to 
cultivating potent marijuana, would make it the pot-growing capital 
of the nation.

"Oregon will likely become a destination growing spot, with sales to 
areas of the country where it's prohibited," Schoen said, adding 
towns would be powerless to keep pot farms and stores out of their 

He said enforcement efforts declined considerably with medical 
marijuana legalization, but pot use and sales "went way beyond" what 
the original act intended.

"I'm concerned this measure will take it to the next level," he said.

Face-off with the feds

State Reps. Peter Buckley, D-Ashland, and Dennis Richardson, 
R-Central Point, co-chairmen of the budget-writing Ways and Means 
Committee, agree Measure 80 could lead to a clash with the federal 
government but part ways on the act itself.

Buckley has publicly come out in support of Measure 80.

"As taxpayers, you'll be very happy with the revenues going in the 
general fund instead of to prohibition," Buckley said. "It's similar 
to alcohol: You regulate and you tax it - except alcohol is much more 

Richardson concedes legalizing marijuana would fatten state coffers, 
but he considers pot a "gateway drug" and not good for society.

"Legalization will dramatically increase illegal activity that causes 
problems with federal authorities and brings in organized crime," he said.

The two House members both expressed concern over a possible clash 
with the federal government. But Buckley said the process involved 
would help mitigate that.

"Things won't be different immediately because the feds have to give 
Oregon and other states the ability to proceed," Buckley said, 
referring to Colorado and Washington's initiatives.

"So we'll have to be very cautious in setting up oversight. 
Eventually, it might have to go to the Supreme Court, because of the stigma."

Richardson, a lawyer, was less certain of reaching a deal with 
federal authorities.

"It brings to a head the issue of federalism, contained in the 10th 
Amendment," Richardson said. "Marijuana is not constitutionally 
protected, so it will bring to a head the federal government's right 
to (act against it)."

Richardson called it "not an easy issue ... one with lots of 
unanswered questions about its effect on society."

"It's a roll of the dice for Oregon to be first," he said.

Richardson said legalization would reduce prosecutions, but "all laws 
carry a message, and legalizing marijuana is an endorsement of its 
use and it can be argued that's negative.

"It seems there's no argument that it's positive for society," Richardson said.

Attorney general would be pot advocate

The Oregon Cannabis Tax Act would require the state attorney general 
to "vigorously defend" the act and anyone prosecuted for acts that 
are legal under its provisions. The attorney general also would be 
required to propose a federal act to all members of Congress and 
international organizations, and urge its adoption through "all legal 
and appropriate means."

Huddleston said the provision is "essentially making (the attorney 
general) a marijuana ambassador." Schoen said it poses a major legal 
problem, as the attorney general would be defending people who were 
in violation of federal law.

What citizens think

"It would reduce the prison population and the cost to the community 
of the whole legal process," said David Landry of Medford. "It's 
already incredibly available to anyone who wants it, so that's not 
the issue. Teens will still get marijuana regardless. The law funds 
drug education, and that's the key, getting out science-based 
information about the impact of pot on the developing brain."

A retiree from teaching special needs in area schools, Laura Grosz of 
Medford, speaking in an interview at the Medford Growers Market, said 
she's seen what happens to kids when parents aren't fully functioning.

"It would mean more kids in less structured, less responsible 
families. It would be worse," said Grosz. "We don't need more people 
out of control and able to opt out of being cognizant about what they 
should be doing in life."

Backers say legalization and sales in state-run stores will keep pot 
out of the hands of those younger than 21, but Grosz disagreed, 
noting, "If (parents) buy it and have it in the home, teens will have 
access or they will find a friend (over 21) to buy it for them."

Since marijuana is so plentiful, said Barbara Witten of Medford: "I 
don't think anything will change. Enough people are doing it now that 
it won't matter. A friend says he's stopped going to cocktail parties 
and now just goes to pot parties. It may increase state revenues, but 
that's only in theory. If the feds want you out of business, you're out."

John Bartow of Phoenix had a similar take, noting: "There's not going 
to be a big change, just less people in jail for using something 
that's a natural plant. It would just be easier on everyone. There 
wouldn't be all these issues of polices and crimes if everyone has it."

Working on the front lines of addiction affords a very different 
picture of marijuana, said Christine Mason, executive director of 
Addictions Recovery Center in Medford.

"The primary drugs of choice are, one, alcohol, two, prescription 
drugs and opiates and, three, marijuana and meth," said Mason. 
"Marijuana is absolutely addictive. ... It stays in your system for 
days and will impair your ability to work, react and function normally."

Various studies have shown that the marijuana on the market today is 
far more powerful than it was decades ago, with the content of 
tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the chemical compound that creates the 
"high" in users, typically approaching 10 percent. THC content 
averaged below 2 percent in the 1970s, then began a fairly steady 
climb, according to the University of Mississippi's Potency Monitoring Project.

"It's a substance people have trouble with," Mason said. "The 
evidence is that it's a gateway drug, and we've seen its addiction 
grow over the years. My speculation is that, with legalization, it 
would grow more."

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The Oregon Cannabis Commission would regulate the cultivation and 
sale of marijuana, and assure high-quality product. It would license 
qualified applicants, purchase marijuana from the growers, and sell 
it through OCC stores. For medical marijuana patients, the marijuana 
would be sold at cost.

The act would allow hemp to be grown and produced for fiber, protein 
and oil without regulation, state license, fee or federal license.

The OCC would be charged with promoting marijuana in all legal 
national and international markets.

The OCC would inspect, test and grade product, and establish levels 
of cannabinoids that "produce psychoactivity."

Growers, processors and buyers would have to be 21 or older and not 
have been convicted of marijuana offenses under the new law. Those 
convicted of growing or selling marijuana - other than to minors - 
before the new law went into effect still would be allowed to apply 
for a license.

Citizens would be allowed to grow and use their own marijuana without 
a license, but selling home-grown marijuana would be prohibited.

Profits from the state's sale of marijuana would be distributed as 
follows: 90 percent to the state general fund; 7 percent for drug 
abuse treatment; 1 percent for promotion of hemp via a new Hemp Fiber 
and Food Committee; 1 percent to promote biodiesel fuel made from 
hemp; and 1 percent to schools for drug education.

It would be illegal to resell marijuana, take it out of state or 
consume it publicly except where prominent signs permit and minors 
were not allowed. Selling marijuana or taking it out of state for 
sale without OCC authority would be Class C felonies. Taking it out 
of state for reasons other than sale would be a Class A misdemeanor.

The OCC could limit the amount a person purchases and refuse to sell 
marijuana to anyone who abuses the drug or violates the new law.

Sale to minors would be a Class B felony. Giving marijuana to minors 
would be a Class A misdemeanor. A minor attempting to buy it could be fined.

The state attorney general would be required to "vigorously defend" 
the act and anyone prosecuted for acts that are legal under its 
provisions. The attorney general also would be required to propose a 
federal act to all members of Congress and international 
organizations, and urge its adoption through "all legal and appropriate means."

Names and addresses of applicants, licensees and purchasers would not 
be public record.

The governor would appoint seven members for the first year. After 
that, five of seven members would be elected by growers and 
processors for one-year terms; the other two would be appointed by 
the governor for one-year terms.
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