Among the decisions that Oregonians will make in this election is whether or not to legalize the cultivation, possession, and use of marijuana. Measure 80, the Oregon Cannabis Tax Act, would legalize and regulate adult use of cannabis throughout the state. I advocate a "Yes" vote.
The arguments in favor are myriad.
- Oregon spends somewhere around $2 million per year to process incarceration and probation for marijuana offenders. When you consider how financially strapped our state is regarding education and library funding and infrastructure maintenance, this seems to be a colossal waste of money.
- According to NORML, a long-time advocacy organization, marijuana is Oregon's fourth largest cash crop in terms of revenue. Marijuana cultivation yields about $240 million production dollars each year. An industry with that kind of lucre is a potential revenue source for the state. As it stands now, all that money evaporates into the black market.
- Marijuana has well-established medicinal value. It is used to treat depression and glaucoma and to treat the effects of chemotherapy among many other uses.
- Hemp (marijuana low in tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)) consists of fibers that make it useful as a textile and durable paper.
- Unlike many perscription drugs and alcohol there is not a single documented case of a fatal overdose from marijuana.
Old myths die hard, but the idea that marijuana is a "gateway drug" leading to harder, more dangerous drugs is completely without merit. We all know people who smoke dope and we all know people who drink heavily. In our individual experiences, how many lives have we seen ruined by (illegal) marijuana? How about by (legal) alcohol? Be honest.
As I've stated before, I use marijuana regularly. Although I don't have a legal prescription (I'm not paying for a damned card, for heaven's sake) I consider my usage medicinal. (At least partly.) Marijuana is a natural medicine that makes me more tolerant and patient and, frankly, more pleasant to be around. I fail to see how it is any more dangerous than prescribed anti-depressants or anxiety medicines or any of the other crap that gets peddled on the squawk-box nowadays.
The one legitimate concern about legalizing ganja is that, by doing so, the state of Oregon would put itself in direct conflict with federal law. But federal law needs to change. Period. And when you consider that other states defy federal law in much more egregious ways (suppressing minority votes, illegal uses of federal lands) Oregon's potential transgression seems trivial.
Opponents of marijuana legalization sometimes worry that it would encourage youngsters to experiment. Take, for example, the woman selling ceramics and pottery whom I ran into at the Oregon State Fair a few years back.
I saw her booth near the beer garden. She was a middle-aged woman, with wire frame glasses, dishwater hair, and a hard set to her mouth. Inside a glass case were ceramic dragons, vases, mugs, dishware. "Do you have any bongs?" I asked her.
"This is a family place!" she said, outraged.
Behind us, in the beer garden, a band was playing loudly. Someone in the drunken crowd let out a whoop and shouted some incoherency. "Family place, huh?" I asked. "Right next to the beer garden?"
"Most people quit pot when they grow up," she sneered.
I grinned. "You got me there."
She didn't respond.
Vote Yes on 80.