Pubdate: Thu, 09 Oct 2014
Source: Herald, The (Everett, WA)
Copyright: 2014 Associated Press
Author: Nigel Duara, Associated Press
Page: B1


PORTLAND, Ore. - Rick Steves smokes the occasional joint, but he's 
not arguing for marijuana legalization in Oregon just because he 
likes to get high.

Steves, a nationally known guidebook author and host on public radio 
and television, said Tuesday he's convinced that marijuana 
prohibition in the U.S. operates solely to harm the poor and people 
of color, and to profit off their punishment.

"It's not guys like me, rich white guys, who need it," Steves said 
Tuesday at a downtown Portland hotel. "It's the people who are 
arrested and cited, who are poor."

Steves is crisscrossing western and central Oregon in support of a 
ballot measure to legalize marijuana, a movement that picked up steam 
in 2012 when Colorado and Washington state each approved legal 
marijuana and commercial outlets to sell it.

None of it would have happened without a plummeting stock market in 
2008, Steves said.

"When you look at the end of Prohibition, it came during the 
Depression because they couldn't afford to jail all those guys," 
Steves said. "There's no coincidence that (marijuana legalization) 
was taken seriously only after the recession."

Steves wrote in the book "Travel as a Political Act" that his 
globe-trotting reveals marijuana decriminalization is good for society.

"There is this idea that there's this reservoir of people who will 
immediately begin to smoke pot if it's legal and ruin their lives," 
Steves said. "In Europe, they've shown that that's not true."

The No on 91 campaign, which draws most of its funding from law 
enforcement groups, has said that marijuana legalization will make it 
easier for children to access the drug.

Spokeswoman Mandi Puckett said Steves' message is muddled.

While European drug-control measures may rely on reducing harm 
instead of imprisoning users, Puckett said Holland has found it is 
"not successful at all there" in reducing dependency or crime.

Puckett said Washington and Colorado should be left to experiment 
with the drug.

"Oregon would be wiser to slow down," said Puckett, adding that she 
would likely never support full legalization. "Let them be the guinea pigs."

Steves supported Washington state's successful 2012 measure to 
legalize marijuana, but didn't back a 2012 Oregon legalization 
measure because, he said, it was "pro-marijuana," without any input 
from groups with a stake in the measure, like law enforcement. This 
year's ballot initiative, called Measure 91, is "anti-prohibition," 
Steves said.

The difference is the planning, he said. Money in Measure 91 is set 
aside for law enforcement, schools and drug-treatment programs. The 
measure seeks to legalize the sale and taxation of marijuana in 
Oregon. The drug is now legal for medicinal use.

The campaign to legalize marijuana in Oregon raised about $2.4 
million by the latest reporting deadline in late September. The 
opposition, No on 91, last reported about $170,000 in its coffers.

"If we jailed everyone who smokes the occasional joint in Oregon 
tomorrow," Steves said, "it would be a lot less interesting place to live."
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom