Two Views • Measure 80 could change how we view pot, hemp

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.My family has been in Oregon since the 1860s, true pioneers who helped build this state from its very first years.

At the turn of the 20th century, my ancestors were hops farmers in the fertile Willamette Valley. They were part of a successful agricultural industry at a time when hops made up a significant percentage of Oregon’s overall farm output.

So, when Oregon and the nation implemented the calamitous policy known as alcohol prohibition, my family — law-abiding farmers — paid the price. Their hops fields were destroyed, plants ripped out of the ground.

Why? Because the product my family grew was used to make beer. So, my family and farmers like them suffered, innocent people were pushed underground, lives were ruined, and America saw the rise of organized crime. All because of a misguided commitment to the failed policy of prohibition.

Fast-forward a century to Oregon 2012. Craft brewing is a signature Oregon industry: $2.44 billion in economic impact last year alone, and employing more than 5,000 Oregonians part- or full-time, from farms to breweries, waitresses to marketing professionals.

The numbers for Oregon’s wine industry are equally astounding. In 2010, Oregon’s wine industry economic impact was $2.7 billion and employed more than 13,000 Oregonians, bringing wine tourists — and their pocketbooks — from across the world to Oregon’s more than 400 wineries.

What changed? We as a community decided that prohibition was a terrible mistake, and that regulating alcohol made more sense, cost less money and worked better. And entrepreneurs could go out and start breweries, wineries and distilleries to sell their regulated liquor and bring income to our state.

Industrial uses

Now we face this debate again. But we’re not reading history; we’re being given the chance to make it.

The prohibition of marijuana and agricultural hemp is just as terrible a mistake as was alcohol prohibition. Marijuana prohibition destroys the lives of otherwise law-abiding people, it fuels the black market, it endangers communities and it enriches organized criminals, now called cartels. But with a single vote on our ballots in November, we can fix a broken approach.

As secretary-treasurer for the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 555, I represent 19,000 men and women across Oregon and Southwest Washington. My union supports Oregon Measure 80, the Oregon Cannabis Tax Act, which would replace failed marijuana prohibition with effective marijuana regulation, allowing adults 21 and older to purchase marijuana only at state-licensed cannabis stores, just as they now buy their liquor at OLCC-licensed stores.

Measure 80 keeps in place existing DUII laws and introduces tough penalties for selling to minors. Oregon Measure 80 is a comprehensive, thoroughly vetted and workable approach to regulating marijuana in Oregon.

Measure 80 also gives real protection to Oregon farmers to grow and process agricultural hemp. Hemp, which can be used in the production of more than 50,000 different products, fits perfectly into Oregon’s sustainable and natural resources economy already — from biofuels to textiles, from green building to pulp and paper production.

Those industries will employ thousands of Oregonians across the state, a necessity in the economy we’ve been struggling through for the last several years.

I’m voting for Measure 80 because marijuana prohibition failed to do anything it was supposed to do. I’m voting for Measure 80 because, as a union worker, I want to know there are good jobs to be had in the state my family’s called home for generations.

I’m voting for Measure 80 because I know that, in 50 years, we’ll look back and know we did the right thing in ending the abysmal policy of prohibition and putting in its place a common-sense Oregon approach.

I hope you’ll do the same.

Jeff Anderson is secretary-treasurer of the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 555.

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