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It's time to push for local control of marijuana laws

The words “local control” have become somewhat of a catchphrase among citizens and government officials alike when it comes to issues where opinions or goals of community residents differ from those of the region or state.

Most often it arises when discussions turn to education or forestry policy, but it has yet to emerge when it comes to marijuana legalization. Perhaps it’s time for the city and county to beat that drum.

It has become clear that Oregonians favor the legalization of marijuana enough to allow its use for medicinal purposes, and it seems like it is only a matter of time before a ballot measure makes it legal for recreational use as well.

If that happens, one could say the people have spoken and therefore the law enforcement entities of communities throughout the state should follow suit.

We are not so sure.

While we have yet to gage the public stance on marijuana use here in Crook County, it has become clear that county and city staff and officials do not favor the change. Interviews in recent Central Oregonian articles bear this out as Prineville’s mayor and police captain, and the Crook County Sheriff have publicly expressed their opposition to legalized marijuana.

Law enforcement has stressed the dangers of the drug and fear making it legal would increase use in our local youth. They point to the prevalence of teen alcohol use to punctuate their point.

Mayor Betty Roppe is troubled by the fact that federally, the drug remains illegal, so the city would be allowing use of a drug, yet violating national laws in the process. City planning director Phil Stenbeck added that it puts planners in the position of contradicting their own code, which is supposed to uphold federal, state and local laws.

Again, we don’t know where the general public comes out on this issue, but if their opinions mirror those of the community leaders, why should Crook County have to go along with legalizing pot? Counties should have an out – an opportunity to enforce use of the drug in accordance with federal law.

If state residents can vote for legalization, counties should be able to vote their way out of making it legal.

Whether local control would prevail is uncertain in this instance. School districts still answer to the state and forestry remains largely under control of the federal government. Nevertheless, there is a conversation to be had, and perhaps with enough push, communities will be given the chance to decide what happens in within their borders.



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