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Marijuana legalization is a lot of smoke

by: CHRISTOPHER ONSTOTT/TRIBUNE FILE PHOTO - Marijuana plants are cultivated at a legal grow operation in Southwest Portland for distribution to Oregon medical marijuana card holders. Oregon voters get to decide in November whether to legalize and regulate marijuana.Imagine Oregon as a magnet that feeds the illicit drug trade for the entire North American continent.

Is that what we want to incubate as one of the Oregon’s prime industries?

As protectors of public safety, members of the Oregon State Sheriffs’ Association, Oregon Association Chiefs of Police and Oregon District Attorneys Association see only problems associated with Measure 80, the measure on the November ballot to legalize recreational marijuana and hemp.

Measure 80 threatens communities already beset by drug abuse and narcotics trafficking. Simply put, Measure 80 will undermine public health and public safety in Oregon.

First, Measure 80 permits a state and a workplace where any driver older than 21 can get on the road with marijuana in their system. “Drugged driving” incidents are on the rise, and this measure does not establish standards for driving under the influence of marijuana. Law enforcement will have very little recourse to keep those impaired drivers off the road.

Transit drivers and everyday commuters will be able to drive while under the influence of marijuana. That fact alone should be enough to oppose this measure.

Second, there are studies showing that expanded availability and perceived social acceptability will increase marijuana use among youth. Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC, the main active ingredient in marijuana) impairs the development of the adolescent brain.

The percentage of kids in drug counseling for marijuana addiction has been increasing annually, and the resulting negative effects place our youth’s development and our future workforce at risk. With Measure 80, increased availability and use by youth will lead to increased addiction.

Public safety will suffer, and the quality of life in our communities will deteriorate.

The truth is the production and distribution of marijuana is already big business and controlled by violent drug cartels. Should this measure pass, the cartels are well positioned and eagerly awaiting a greatly expanded marketplace.

We need only look at the violence occurring among warring drug cartels along the United States’ border with Mexico to imagine what Oregon might experience.

A recent Rand Corp. study concluded that passage of Proposition 19 in California — a measure to legalize marijuana — would cause marijuana prices to fall so low that criminal organizations will flock to Oregon to buy their dope for resale in their home states.

In effect, Measure 80 would make Oregon a launching pad for illicit marijuana dealing across the country.

Far from freeing up law enforcement to deal with serious crime, as proponents claim, Measure 80 would mean we would be overwhelmed by international drug cartels that use violence and guns to protect their lucrative markets.

Closer to home, Measure 80 would allow anyone to grow marijuana anywhere — in a vacant lot near a school yard or in a house next door to you. Communities across Oregon are already dealing with fire hazards, security and safety issues posed by these grow houses, which have seriously degraded the quality of life in their community.

Third, are we really serious about introducing more mind-altering substances into our society because it might produce tax revenue? The independent Rand study warned that any revenue benefits produced by marijuana legalization measures such as Measure 80 are highly speculative, at best. Marijuana still remains illegal under federal law. Thus, any locally imposed taxes are legally uncollectible because, according to law, no one can be compelled to pay a tax that might subject them to prosecution by the federal government.

Then there are the social and health costs. Law enforcement officers see countless emergency room cases where drugs containing anything from pesticides to rat poison have been known to cause severe health problems.

Marijuana is addictive and people seek treatment for it. Increased use will lead to increased addiction and increased treatment costs. These costs alone would outweigh any potential revenue derived.

Finally, Measure 80 would put Oregon out of compliance with the federal Drug Free Workplace Act, according to research done by the California Chambers of Commerce. Compliance with that act is required for federal funding. Oregon could lose millions annually in federal aid and grants affecting schools, businesses and government contracts.

Please join the many law enforcement groups, faith leaders, victim’s rights advocates and employers throughout Oregon who all oppose Measure 80. It’s ill-conceived, badly written and creates significant health and safety problems.

Drug use is damaging to our communities, our youth and everyone we are sworn to serve and protect.


Dan Staton is the Multnomah County sheriff. Patrick Garrett is the Washington County sheriff. Eric Nisley is the Wasco County district attorney and president of Oregon District Attorneys Association.



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