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Marijuana measure to appear on ballot

New Approach Oregon has collected enough signatures to put a legalization measure on the upcoming November ballot


As Washington and Colorado continue their first year under new laws legalizing marijuana for recreational use, groups are pushing for the same changes in Oregon.

The latest effort by New Approach Oregon has resulted in the submission of enough signatures to put the Control, Regulation and Taxation of Marijuana and Industrial Hemp Act on the upcoming November ballot.

The proposed measure seeks to legalize possession of marijuana for adults 21 years and older, allow licensure, regulated cultivation, and sales of the drug that would be taxed and generate revenue for essential state services. The act would further keep laws in place that make selling marijuana to minors a felony.

The group cited statistics from a variety of sources, including the Colorado Center on Law and Policy, to support legalization. They noted that Colorado has experienced a 10 percent drop in violent crime and 50 percent drop in homicides since marijuana was legalized in January 2014, and went on to point out that 10,000 adults are arrested every year in Oregon for marijuana-related offenses.

“It’s time to stop wasting taxpayer dollars on treating marijuana as a crime,” said Peter Zuckerman, press secretary for New Approach Oregon. “Prohibition of marijuana is ineffective, costs the state tax revenue, and fuels violence. It is time to try something new.”

In Crook County, local government and law enforcement leaders tend to disagree with legalizing the drug. Given the opportunity through House Bill 3460 to pass a moratorium on medical marijuana dispensaries, both the Prineville City Council and Crook County Court passed the one-year ban.

The moratorium is intended to give community governments time to develop laws regulating dispensaries, however discussion of allowing legal access to the drug prompted criticism.

“I don’t understand how they can mandate that we have to allow it if it is against federal law,” Mayor Betty Roppe said.

So far, local leaders have yet to develop any regulations regarding medical marijuana. County Counsel Jeff Wilson said no formal discussions on the matter have taken place, and City Planning Director Phil Stenbeck said they are waiting to see what plays out in the coming election.

“We were kind of anticipating that between June of this year and June of next year (the duration of the moratorium) there would be some kind of a legal challenge either to try to get it legalized recreationally, or a case would come up that would say you can’t do it because it is still a controlled substance at the federal level and you can’t go against that,” Stenbeck stated.

He went on to say that when it comes to land use laws, the fact that marijuana use, possession and sales remains illegal at the federal level, despite state laws to the contrary, it becomes difficult to create development codes associated with the drug.

“Most of your land use codes are written in a manner that says we can approve things that comply with federal, state and local laws,” Stenbeck said. “It puts us in a situation where we have to change our code to say we can approve things that violate federal law – which doesn’t make sense.”

Leaders in local law enforcement envision several problems stemming from legalization of marijuana in Oregon. Crook County Sheriff Jim Hensley and Prineville Police Captain Boyd both believe that making it legal will cause a rise in child and teen use of the drug.

“The reason that alcohol is readily available to kids is because it is legal for adults to purchase it,” Boyd said. “There is always a conduit happening there, so I could certainly see the same thing happening (with marijuana).”

Boyd went on to point out the health risks associated with marijuana use, saying the drug is much more potent that it used to be and is therefore more dangerous.

“It has been refined and engineered to be extremely strong and extremely affecting to someone who uses it," said Boyd.

Hensley added that despite opinions to the contrary, marijuana is a gateway drug.

“You talk to many addicts and they say that marijuana was their gateway drug,” he said, “and it did move them up (to harder drugs) and it did ruin their life.”

When it comes to criminal activity, Boyd is not convinced that making marijuana legal will result in reduced violence or homicides. Regarding the crime statistics cited by New Approach Oregon, he said, “Colorado has not been doing it long enough yet for any snapshot of statistics to be scientifically valid.”

Instead, Boyd noted that many of the criminal cases he reviews involve citations for possession of marijuana as well as other drugs like methamphetamine. While he did not place blame for the criminal activity on marijuana use, he did say that people under the influence of any drug make incidents more hazardous.

“Every time we deal with someone who is intoxicated, the danger level goes up and the chances of getting hurt goes up,” he said.




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  • 21 Aug 2014

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