A couple of years ago, I retired after more than 25 years as a police officer. Much of that time was spent with a metropolitan police department, but I also spent the early part of my career with a couple of departments in rural Oregon. Over the years, I have met many, many people. I have seen people under the influence of a lot of things—alcohol, prescription pills, hard drugs like meth and heroin. But, at no point in my quarter-century as a cop did I think that marijuana use posed a serious threat to the community.

I’ve never smoked marijuana, and when it does become legal, I don’t plan to start. I have never had any interest. But I know a lot of adults who do choose to consume marijuana. I don’t call them criminals—I call them my friends, my family members, my neighbors. Almost everyone I know who chooses to use marijuana does so because they enjoy it. In the way I enjoy a good craft beer, the people I know who consume marijuana do so responsibly.

The reality is such there will always be a small subset of people who abuse what others may choose to use responsibly. I’ve seen it with illegal and more often legal drugs—sleeping pills, pain pills, alcohol. If we’re worried about abuse, we should regulate marijuana and tax it, and use the tax revenue to help pay for drug and alcohol treatment programs.

That’s why I’ve decided to vote yes on Measure 80. Seven percent of the tax revenues from the sale of licensed marijuana will go to fund existing drug and alcohol treatment programs in Oregon. And most of the tax revenues, 90 percent, will go to fund our schools and other general-fund obligations.

Measure 80 isn’t perfect, but I’ve never gotten to vote for something perfect in the almost 40 years I’ve been a voter. Measure 80 is, however, sensible and practical. It takes the approach we’ve developed over decades of regulating liquor and applies it to marijuana. It’s easy to understand and would definitely be more effective than what we’re doing now.

I know I’m not alone as a law-enforcement officer supporting Measure 80. Most cops became cops to protect our communities, to go after the predators that threaten our kids and our lives. Regulating and taxing marijuana benefits the police because it allows us to focus on real public safety priorities.

When adults can buy marijuana at state-licensed stores, I see that action putting drug dealers and cartels out of business. They won’t be able to compete with safe, convenient and market-priced marijuana. Just like home-brewers, people will be able to grow for themselves. But they’ll be more likely to go to the corner cannabis shop, show their I.D., and buy the brand they prefer.

I heard about a poll earlier this year that said two in three Americans agree that the war on marijuana has failed. Well, I’m part of that 67 percent. Prohibition hasn’t yet and won’t ever work, only wasting our already limited financial resources and ruining the lives of otherwise peaceful, contributing, law-abiding citizens.

It’s time for a new path for Oregon: regulating and taxing marijuana like liquor. Measure 80 is the way forward.

Bruce Litchfield, a retired Milwaukie Police officer and drug recognition expert, lives in Milwaukie and speaks for himself.

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