Pubdate: Wed, 18 Sep 2013
Source: Hillsboro Argus, The (OR)
Copyright: 2013 The Hillsboro Argus
Author: Jayne Carroll


Once again, there is mounting political pressure for Oregon to join 
the states of Colorado and Washington in legalizing marijuana for 
recreational use.

Oregonians defeated recreational pot measures in 2010 and 2012.

In 2010, Measure 74, which would have legalized medical marijuana 
dispensaries, was resoundingly rejected by 58 percent of the voters.

In 2012, Oregonians also voted down the Cannabis Tax Act, which would 
have devoted 90 percent of recreational marijuana profits to the 
state's general fund.

Proponents of legalized pot in Oregon claim the measures were poorly 
crafted and the campaigns for their passage were under funded and 
feebly managed. They also contend that since legalizing recreational 
pot has worked well in Washington and Colorado, public attitude has 
dramatically shifted in Oregon.

The strongest arguments for decriminalizing the use of marijuana are 
revenue related: 1) Taxing the sale of marijuana would bring much 
needed additional dollars to the state coffers; and 2) Eliminating 
incarceration for the use and sale of pot would save projected 
millions in prison costs.

In 2012, Oregon's fiscal analysts, claiming there were simply too 
many uncertainties in a new marijuana market, refused to guess how 
much tax revenue would be generated; however, they did project the 
measure would save a modest $1.4 million to $2.4 million in prison expenses.

It's difficult to argue against the penitentiary cost savings of 
decriminalizing marijuana usage; but it would be nice to know how 
many criminals are being incarcerated in Oregon exclusively for 
breaking marijuana laws.

Taxing a new commodity to generate new revenue for the state is also 
a compelling argument, but what are the long-term fiscal and societal 
costs of legalizing pot use?

According to 2012 exit polls, women voters opposed the Oregon 
Cannabis Tax Act. Mothers, sisters, wives, girlfriends were more 
moved by concern over the negative impact of drug use on those they 
love than by the fiscal benefits to the state.

Anyone who has ever had a child, a spouse, a friend or colleague ruin 
a promising future with drugs is less likely to validate legalized 
pot. While many claim marijuana is not a "gateway" drug or the first 
step to a life of drug addiction, many others instinctively do not agree.

It may not be statistically proven, but for many heavy drug users, 
smoking pot was where it all began. Most pot smokers may not become 
addicts or ever experiment with other drugs, but the change in 
attitude, ambition, energy, and personalities is enough to generate 
concern in many voting blocs.

Proponents of legalizing marijuana for recreational purposes may have 
won the fiscal arguments, but if Oregon is going to join Washington 
and Colorado, it is the psychological and physiological impact of the 
drug that will have to be satisfactorily addressed.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom