Violence, Anger, Explosions: Children in Danger

(Part two of Marijuana and Child Neglect/Abuse. Last week we published an article about neglect; this week we cover violence, anger and explosions.)   A 15-year old boy living in fear of his violent father was afraid to go home and confided in a friend’s family.  The friend’s mom told police, who went to investigate the child abuse. They found out more, accidentally discovering an illegal, indoor marijuana grow.  Yet marijuana activists tell us they are calm and non-violent.

Butane hash oil explosions are another way children surrounded by marijuana face grave danger.  In Medford, Oregon, a 12-year old girl suffered many broken bones when she had to jump from the 2nd floor of the apartment building to escape the flames.

After three children died in Colorado because of parental neglect while parents smoked pot followed by a string of hash oil explosions with children at home, it should have been easy to pass child protection laws in Colorado.  On April 27, 2014, an 8-month old baby had be rescued from the 2nd floor of a burning townhouse in Littleton, after a father and his girlfriend sparked a fire by burning hash oil.   The neighbor whose adjoining townhouse was damaged rescued their 4-year old.  Just 10 days earlier, on the 17th of April, a couple in Colorado Springs endangered their 3 children, the oldest a 7-year old, using fire to make dabs from hash oil.

Since the Alliance for Drug Endangered Children began in the 1990s, there are fewer meth lab explosions.  Instead, the promotion and legalization of marijuana has created one of its most dangerous by-products: hash oil explosions fueled by butane gas.   In short, it’s called BHO.

Hash Oil Explosions

As of early May, Colorado had experienced 31 hash oil explosions in 2014, 10 of them involving serious burns.  The  Colorado Alliance for Drug Endangered Children (CoDEC) has been taking steps protect children from the drug-using parents, but two child-protection bills failed to pass.

On April 1, 2014, state Senators Linda Newell and Andy Kerr introduced two Senate bills to strengthen protections for children whose parents’ drug usage, manufacture or cultivation put them in danger.   Unfortunately, an associate of the Drug Policy Alliance had written a letter to the Denver Post implying it was unfair to marijuana users.

The bills HB 177 and 178 were voted down at the beginning of May. The outcome was undermined by interests of the marijuana industry, marijuana users and politics.   When the city of Denver met September 16 to restrict unqualified individuals from making hash oil — the marijuana activists again objected.

After Failure to Pass Child Protection Bills

In mid-May, a Manitou Springs, Colorado, couple cooled the hash oil in the refrigerator.   The refrigerator door blew off and landed on the woman’s three-year old child.  Multiple charges of arson and child endangerment have been leveled against each of the parents in Colorado who put the lives of their children in danger.  They are indeed lucky that none of the children burned or died in the fires.

Making hash oil at home is perfectly legal in Colorado.   However, the state of Colorado should be blamed for putting the marijuana users’ freedom and the “good name” or reputation of marijuana ahead of the children.  The evidence is that the legalization of marijuana has put more children in harm’s way.

 Huge Problem in Other States, in West

Hash oil explosions are frequent in other states, too, particularly on the west coast.  On August 25, a man living in Santa Rosa, California, had an explosion and burned badly.  While he did not have children, the family next door with 5 children were put in the line of danger. Today, the LA Times reports of 20 hash oil explosions within the last year in San Diego County, California.  One of the 4 groups currently under investigation involved a child put in danger, and the offending party has been charged with child endangerment.

A recent hash oil explosion in San Diego
A recent hash oil explosion in San Diego

In May, the Oregonian reported that nine major hash oil blasts had occurred in Oregon since 2011, four of them in homes or hotel rooms where children, including a newborn, were present. In one case, a 12-year-old girl suffered multiple broken bones after leaping from the second floor of an apartment building rocked by a butane hash oil (BHO) explosion.

Last year a 10-day old and one-year old baby and two women suffered injuries from a hash oil explosion in Forest Grove, Oregon, the site of another extensive fire from making hash oil in January, 2014.    Two months ago, on July 22,  it was announced that the District Attorney in Seattle filed charges against seven who caused explosions in the state of Washington.

Anger Management

Marijuana users like to claim they don’t get mad and violent, like the cocaine addicts and some alcoholics routinely do.  If their marijuana usage leads to explosions, selfishness, abandonment, or narcissistic rage and anger, they fall into the same violent category as other substance abusers.

A case of violent child abuse erupted in Tampa, Florida in June. Christopher Finlayson, who babysat an 11-month old girl, tried to amuse her by tossing the child into the air.  He tripped and dropped the child face-first onto the floor. When the child continued to cry, Finlayson went into a moment of rage and he “lost it.” The baby was totally unresponsive when the mother returned home.  She took her to the hospital and authorities were called. The man admitted he had smoked a “blunt and a half” of marijuana the previous day and was unable to sleep the night before the incident.

Just a few days ago when police in Nevada went to investigate a case a suspected child abuse, they discovered a fetus in the freezer, with a gun and marijuana in the bassinet. This year authorities in Utah discovered that Megan Huntsman, heavy marijuana user, had buried 6 of her children over several years.

In July, four adults in south Modesto, California, pleaded no contest to severely beating a 7-week old girl. The child had several broken ribs, a lacerated liver and spleen and swelling on her brain. When authorities investigated the home 3 were used for growing marijuana for sale. They parents were charged with two counts of child cruelty, illegally growing with intent for sale, stealing electricity and damaging power lines.

According to a recent article “chronic [marijuana] users exhibit blunted emotional reaction to threat stimuli, which may also decrease the likelihood of aggressive behavior.”  This study is one of many articles  or studies using data while trying to promote marijuana usage.  The study didn’t show what happens when one partner does marijuana while the other does not, sometimes a problem in abusive marriages.   It also did not track child abuse.

From the website, Marijuana Makes You Violent
From the website, Marijuana Makes You Violent

Why is marijuana likely to make some people violent, if using can cause a “blunted emotional reaction to threat?”  The nature of a psychologically addictive substance is that a person needs it to feel ok and to feel normal.   Take it away and there can be panic which results in anger.  Leah Allen tells the story of how her cool, chronically high father abused her mother.  Furthermore, disagreeing with the marijuana bloggers gets them so riled and angry.

What About DEA mistakes?

The tragedies of children lost to parents’ marijuana usage, and other drug usage, are larger than the widely-publicized mistakes made by the Drug Enforcement Agency, DEA.  No teacher, parent, police agency, politician or worker of any sort is free from making mistakes.  This summer a story spread about a failed raid which resulted in a grenade hitting a 20-month old child.  It’s regretful that there was an injustice suffered by this child for that mistake.  However,  this baby and his parents will have their justice with law.   There will be no justice for the marijuana – endangered children, as long as the marijuana community holds all the cards.

It’s a tragedy that because “Drug Wars Don’t Work,” Americans have legitimized a very dangerous drug.  It’s a tragedy that the current anti-government trend spreading in American political circles also leads to more chaos and more abused children.

Based on the fire, anger, rage and explosions, we cannot continue this marijuana experiment if we are to have a saner, safer society.

Negligent Parents Let Three Children Die in Colorado

(Part one of two articles on Marijuana and Child Abuse/Neglect)

On November 27, 2012, three weeks after Coloradans voted to legalize marijuana, Heather Jensen, 24, kept her two-year old and four-year old sons in the car seats of an SUV, while she smoked marijuana and had sex in her boyfriend’s truck. She left the ignition on and turned the heater up so the boys wouldn’t freeze. When she returned 90 minutes later, the younger boy wasn’t breathing. The older boy died in the hospital a week later. Jensen had lost her husband, Eric, in a car accident six weeks earlier.   She has been sentenced to serve 10 years in prison.

Another Child Dies from Neglect

On January 13, 2014, two-year old Levi Welton died in a fire.  He and his four-year old brother had been left in a room alone, where the fire started.  Little Levi went into the closet to escape the flames. The parents, aged 27 and 33, were smoking pot in another room with friends.  They survived, along with the older son.  Julia and Christopher Welton have been charged with negligent child abuse causing death.   Logan County officials had investigated the parents previously for neglect.  Both boys had tested positive for THC, although the mother insisted she did not smoke pot around her sons.  A family friend who took custody of the surviving boy told a reporter that the county should have done more to take the children out of the home prior to the fire.

Two year old Levi Welton hid from the fire in a closet, while his parents smoked pot, in Sterling, CO.
Two-year old Levi Welton hid from the fire in a closet, while his parents smoked pot, in Sterling, CO. His four-year old brother survived.

Three children died in Colorado within 14 months, while the parents’ indulged in a marijuana.   The Colorado Alliance for Drug-Endangered Children (CoDEC, affiliated with national DEC) has been working for stronger child protection laws. On April 1, 2014, Senators Linda Newell and Andy Kerr introduced two Senate bills to strengthen protections for children whose parents’ drug usage, manufacture or cultivation put them in danger.

The bills didn’t pass.  Newell believes the bills were misconstrued by critics and that the outcome was undermined by interests of the pot industry and politics. Drug Policy Alliance had written a letter to the Denver Post suggesting it was unfair to marijuana users.

Marijuana and Child Neglect

“Don’t blame marijuana, blame the state.” some marijuana activists exclaim. Others say, “Bad parents will be bad parents, and marijuana has nothing to do with it.”

Parents Opposed to Pot blames the aggressive advocacy to legitimize marijuana for killing these three children. Those who praise cannabis refuse to see the irresponsible behaviors and outright neglect could have anything to do with marijuana. No one defends alcohol in the same way.  These parents loved their children.  With addiction, the object of addiction becomes more important than loved ones.  We need to stop minimizing these incidents, because they’re also happening in states without legalized marijuana.

On May 22, in Lakeland, Florida, an abandoned three-year old knocked on the door of his mother’s house for an hour, crying, before the neighbors discovered him. The mother and her boyfriend had been smoking pot and doing whip-its all morning and then went into the bedroom to nap.  Neither one of them had been supervising the boy who had gotten outside other times, even though they lived on a busy street. They told deputies that “marijuana should be legal anyways” and gave that as the reason they smoke pot all the time.

Tyler and William Jensen were happy-go-lucky boys before their death at ages 2 and 4. Negligence and impaired judgment from marijuana is to blame
Tyler and William Jensen were happy-go-lucky boys before their death at ages 2 and 4. Negligence and impaired judgment from marijuana is to blame. Photo original from Facebook.

At least one of the children who died in a hot car this summer was a victim of a marijuana. On July 24, Seth Jackson, the foster father, went to see his marijuana dealer in Wichita and left the 10-month girl in the sweltering heat while he got high. He came out two hours later, and she was dead. He and his partner had been foster parents previously, without known issues.

Why Marijuana and Parenting Don’t Mix

Each situation outlined above — including the ones which resulted in the three Colorado children who died — demonstrate how it’s typical for pot smokers to not realize the lapse of time. Marijuana smoking distorts the sense of time and space, and harms short-term memory.  Ideally, parents would never leave an infant or toddler for any period of time.  Sober parents, with normal functioning, would rush back to their children before the heat or cold could do harm.

It’s possible to sympathize with Heather Jensen for losing her husband, but her coping mechanisms are unacceptable.  The three parents living in Colorado – a state with medical marijuana since 2000 – may have been using marijuana as their crutch to escape the challenges and pains of life.  If a recreational user also starts using pot for anxiety, the anxiety is likely to become worse than it ever may have been had the user not started.  Lady Gaga explains the vicious cycle in her video.

Furthermore, those who begin using any addictive substance  before age 21 are more likely to become addicted. These people may have grown up to be decent parents had they not begun using marijuana. Though many people begin drugs because they come from tough or abusive situations, it’s not necessarily the case.  Where marijuana is legal or when people learn to use pot (or alcohol or prescription drugs) to medicate problems, they don’t learn healthy ways to get through the troubled times.

Another factor that could play into the impaired judgment of Seth Jackson, Heather Jensen, Julia Welton and Christopher Welton was the length of time they had been using marijuana. They ranged in age from 24 to 33. If they had begun smoking marijuana as teens, the part of the brain that deals with executive function could have become very impaired. The bad judgment, escapism and laziness could continue even when they aren’t smoking pot. Consistent pot smoking from teenage years into adulthood can prevent the normal process of growing into maturity.  Recent studies give evidence to these changes in the brain structure.

Last year a 24- year old mother in Centralia, WA, let her 22-month old son smoke from a bong, as friends laughed.
Last year a 24-year old mother in Centralia, WA, let her toddler son smoke from a bong, as friends laughed and encouraged it. A cell phone photo surfaced and she was arrested.

Pregnancy, Breast Feeding and Daycare

The use of marijuana is inappropriate because of the constant alertness needed for child care.  Plus, it messes with short-term memory. Users don’t always realize they’re impaired.

Tobacco smoking leads to health concerns and addiction, but it doesn’t impair the mind. Second hand smoke is bad for children, and many smoking parents make an effort not to do it with children around.  Many women quit when they become pregnant. Today there are moms who insist on smoking marijuana while pregnant, and even when they’re breast feeding.

The neighbor of a home daycare provider in Oregon reported she had seen the owner’s daughter outside smoking with a bong in front of the children.  Both the owner and her daughter were  medical marijuana cardholders.  The state investigated.  In August,  a state board told owners of four Oregon home-based day care centers will have to give up their medical marijuana cards or lose their licenses to care for children.

We know marijuana often brings about impaired judgment, forgetfulness and carelessness.   One 19-year old Arizona mother, who had smoked marijuana, drove off with her infant in a car seat, on the roof of the car.  Casey Anthony was a big party girl, but according to one of her friends, marijuana was her drug of choice. Without casting guilt on Amanda Knox, certainly heavy use of marijuana as a teen stunted her maturity and ability to function as a rational 19-year old in Italy.

It is estimated that 80% of all child abuse, neglect and endangerment is caused by by marijuana, alcohol or drugs. The problems of marijuana have specific relevance to judgment of time, memory and alertness.  They are not quite the same as with other substances.  Many tragedies can be avoided IF WE DON’T NORMALIZE MARIJUANA and make it legitimate for adults.

Marijuana Moms of Beverly Hills made big news last year when they declared that cannabis made them better moms, because it cut down on their anxiety. It’s a publicity stunt set up to promote the industry and bring Cheryl Shuman, the founder, fame.  If you have children and love them, or if you care for children, please don’t indulge and don’t spread the baloney that marijuana is safer than alcohol.  (Part two of this series is here.)

The Pot Piper Leads, Children, Teens Follow

“I’ve seen far more examples of propaganda and unfair marketing practices than I have of reasoned arguments. Worst of all, this kind of marketing targets kids, teenagers, and college students. If we want to make progress in substance use issues, we will need facts and reason, not ploys to grab the attention of our nation’s youth.”  Wharton School of Business student research analyst Theodore Caputi,  recently wrote in an article,  Is Pro-Marijuana Pro-Propaganda?  He’d like to hear more true debate without hype.

Social Media Uses Kids, Teens, Young Adults

How did the push for marijuana legalization come about so rapidly?  The answer lies in a social media campaign by a rich  pro-marijuana lobby aimed at changing opinion.  The Pied Piper has become the Pot Piper.  Young people use social media much more than middle-aged adults and senior citizens.  The largest pro-marijuana Twitter site sends out  an average of 11 pro-marijuana messages per day, according to a study by Washington University psychiatry professor, Patricia Cavazo-Rehg.  Cavazo-Rehg also found that the tweeters targeted Black and Hispanic youth disproportionately, much more frequently than Caucasians.

While Twitter and Facebook have been growing so much over the last decade, the federal government’s funding for substance abuse education and prevention programs has been reduced by 48% during the same time period.  It doesn’t help that a national merchant, Urban Outfitters, has continuously made clothing to glorify marijuana, pill abuse, drinking and now depression.

Surveys of teens indicate they would use more frequently, if marijuana is legalized.  Marijuana lobbyists say they do not advocate for  usage under age 21.  There’s never been a marijuana legalization initiative that would allow users under age 21.  Yet, while NORML and the Marijuana Policy Project “officially” declare it’s not for children, they’ve targeted the youth who wouldn’t be allowed usage under their laws.

Studies show that children and teens have gained the false perception that pot is harmless; this change of perception began in 2005 and grew stronger after 2009,  corresponding to the growth in social media  over that time.

 As the perceived risk in marijuana goes down, teen usage goes up, according to recently-published findings from 2013.  Only Adderall, an ADHD medication, is also trending upward, and it’s being used by those without a prescription.  Cigarette smoking is going down, as is adult smoking, and alcohol use is declining among teens.

Souce: National Institute of Drug Addiction and Abuse, released Dec. 2013
Souce: National Institute of Drug Abuse, released Dec. 2013

Marijuana usage by children and teens has steadily grown along with the push to legalize marijuana and/or expand medical marijuana into more states.  College students use more than ever, probably reflecting this trend, also.

According to the 2013 Monitoring the Future Survey findings, five-year trends show a significant increase in current marijuana use among 8th, 10th and 12th graders.  For example, from 2008 to 2013, reported past-month use increased from 5.8% to 7.0% among 8th graders, from 13.8% to 18.0% among 10th graders, and from 19.4 % to 22.7% among 12th graders surveyed.  Alarmingly, the survey noted that this trend coincides with a decrease in the perceived risk of harm of marijuana use among the same group of students. The annual Monitoring the Future study surveys 6th, 8th 10th and 12th grade students for daily marijuana use, past month use and lifetime use.PiedPiper(13)

Of the top 23 states for teen marijuana usage, 21 of them were in states that had legalized medical marijuana.

How ironic legalization advocates would use ideas like building schools or funding early childhood education by legalizing and taxing a bad habit and dangerous substance like marijuana.   As Washington and Colorado are learning, their states suddenly need to spend money to offset a new problem set of problems.  Taxpayers have to pay for the unnecessary hash oil explosions that have gotten out of hand this year.

Colorado found it necessary to fund public service announcements to warn against stoned driving and against marijuana usage by those under age 21.  The state has decided to spend $2 million on the “Don’t be a Lab Rat” campaign.

Create a Problem to Solve a Problem

Legalizing marijuana to collect taxes and fund drug prevention is the way to create a problem — or make a problem worse — in order to solve the problem. Taxes collected from Washington’s legalization program are supposed to go fund drug prevention programs.   Already taxes in Colorado run far behind what was expected.

States that have had recent problems with pill addiction, cocaine and  heroin, had greater percentages of marijuana usage in youth, in 2010-2011.  They tend to have higher alcohol usage, too.  When asked,  Barbara Cimiglio, deputy commissioner for substance abuse in Vermont’s health department linked the heroin epidemic in Vermont to higher youth usage of marijuana.   “I think what drives this up tends to be the higher use of marijuana, and if you look at the states [with high illicit drug use], they tend to be the states that have decriminalized or have more favorable attitudes toward use of marijuana,” she said.

Marijuana use in the young often creates a-motivational syndrome and apathy, in addition to and apart from the affects of addiction.  It becomes more challenging for many students to keep their educational options open, get jobs and achieve their goals.

There is a connection to regular marijuana usage, gaps in college education and dropping out of high school, which often hinders future success.  “Chronic/heavy marijuana users are twice as likely to experience gaps in college enrollment as minimal users, ” according to  Dr. Robert DuPont, Director of the Institute for Behavior and Health,  in Rockville, MD.

Researchers at Northwestern University recently published their studies indicating the changes on specific parts of the brain, and the National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA) has written about some of those findings.

American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry  warns about  marijuana and young minds:  “Marijuana’s deleterious effects on adolescent brain development, cognition, and social functioning may have immediate and long-term implications, including increased risk of motor vehicle accidents, sexual victimization, academic failure, lasting decline in intelligence measures, psychopathology, addiction, and psychosocial and occupational impairment.”

Education Secretary Arne Duncan and Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell should speak out against the growing usage of marijuana at younger ages. The current spike in middle school and high school students using marijuana means that the time is now!

 

Out-of-State Money Funds Marijuana in Oregon

Congressman Earl Blumenauer isn’t voicing objections to the $1.5 million of out-of-state money to finance Measure 91,  the ballot to legalize marijuana in Oregon.   However, he supports a constitutional amendment to overturn the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling of 2010, which prevents limits on campaign contributions from corporations and associations.   Like so many politicians, his inconsistency is puzzling.  It can only be understood if we imagine that he’s under the thumb of the marijuana industry.

Instead of complaining  of the out-of-state billionaires, the Congressman from Portland takes on the small-time public servants and volunteers.  These are people who would have presented the latest educational information on marijuana and other drugs,  to the smaller towns and cities in Oregon.  If Blumenauer had adequately looked into the studies of youth marijuana usage and other illicit drug usage of his state, he would have known that drug education is needed.   07_nonmedical use pain relievers past yearOregon ranks very high in all illicit drug usage, compared to other states.  (These maps were published late last year, using statistics from 2010-11)   Regarding the current heroin epidemic, and deaths from overdose,  it’s wise to ask why all alcohol and drug prevention programs get 48% less in federal funds than they received 10 years ago!

The money in question was $15,000.  A non-profit prevention group that receives federal funds was going to use the money to put on a summit in Madras, Oregon, followed by a tour.

Voters should have much more of an issue with more than $1.5 million — 100 x the amount provided for the summit —  that outsiders have spent to legalize marijuana in their state.

Rep. Blumenauer has called for a federal investigation into whether taxpayer dollars are being improperly spent on marijuana education events that he said appear to be aimed at influencing voters to oppose the November ballot measure that would legalize the drug.    Kevin Sabet of Project SAM was to be a speaker at 12 localities around the state, just as he had been educating in Oregon years before.  At this time, the program has now been reduced substantially, although a district attorney has been raising funds. This particular summit is a continuation of educational events that takes place every two years in that community and has been going on for over a decade.  Oregon does not have a state-sponsored program of drug education that provides education to the counties.  Local prevention coordinators must do that job.

Blumenauer had taken aim at Mandi Puckett who left her job at Best Care Treatment Services in Madras, to become coordinator of Vote No on 91-Oregon campaign.  Puckett explained in a Press Release on Friday: “My job was to help apply for State and Federal grants and work with the local coalition to use that money to educate people about the dangers of using addictive substances.”  Prevention education efforts, like the Madras Summit, are often a required component of grant applications.  The educational summit in Madras, followed by the tour of Oregon cities was planned between Fall of 2012 to Spring of 2014,  before Measure 91 was on the ballot. There were various stages for approval of the tour, before the state granted final approval in writing from the Oregon Health Authority.  “Later, when it was announced the measure would be on the November ballot, we took extra steps to include in our work plan and advise presenters to not speak about the ballot measure. Our goal was to educate, not lobby,” said Puckett.

Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., talks with reporters September 5 about a series of marijuana education events. (Jeff Mapes/The Oregonian)
Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., talks with reporters September 5 about a series of marijuana education events. (Jeff Mapes/The Oregonian)

So as it appears, prevention coordinators were required in their “federally-approved work plans” to educate about alcohol and drugs, including marijuana.  The state, via Oregon Health Authority, was involved in that process and granted approval for the Summit and the tour, which was in planning long before Measure 91 was on the ballot.  Then in August, when advocates in favor of Measure 91 learned of the approved educational events, is when the problem occurred.  According to documents provided by the Oregonian, representatives of Measure 91 and a member of Congress, who is a supporter of Measure 91, lodged false accusations against prevention educators funded to do the very work they were approved to do.

Not Tiny Grants, but Big-time Marijuana Money from the PACs

As one of Congress’ leading advocates for the marijuana industry, Blumenauer isn’t questioning the use of huge donors with no connection to his Congressional district or state.  New Approach Oregon, the group sponsoring Measure 91, plans to spend $2.3 on television ads, while the opposition has no money to advertise.  Here’s the group’s financial status:

PAC Amount raised Amount spent
New Approach Oregon 2014 $599,455.82 $599,455.82
New Approach Oregon $950,168.16 $912,890.50
Drug Policy Action of Oregon $0.00 $0.00
Total $1,549,623.98 $1,512,346.32

Private, out-of-funds state funds donated earlier this year are:                            Peter Lewis & his family                      $350,000                                       George Soros                                              $160,000

Soros is connected to the Drug Policy Action PAC.  Because not all donors to PACs are made public, it is a bit difficult to sort the information.  None of the big donors appears to be from Oregon.

According to Ballotpedia, as of July 30, 2014, the No on 91 group had zero money, but Measure 91 had received more than $1.5 million.   The top 5 contributors were:

New Approach PAC $250,000
Drug Policy Action $200,000
Drug Policy Action Fund for Oregon $150,000
Philip Harvey $100,000
Henry van Ameringen $100,000

 

Soros lives in New York.  Peter Lewis was a Florida resident when he died in November, and his sons have continued to contribute to the campaign.   Philip Harvey is from Washington, DC, and Henry van Ameringen lives in New York.  They serve on the New Approach Oregon Committee, along with Cari Tuna, wife of a Facebook co-founder.

How Marijuana Money Controlled the Oregon Election in 2012

In Oregon, the marijuana lobby succeeded in determining the outcome of the 2012 race for Attorney General.   The winning candidate in the Democratic primary for Attorney General had received the largest portion of her campaign money from marijuana industry supporters.  These donations came from: Drug Policy Action committee,  $80,000; Arizona resident John Sperling, $70,000, and Citizens for Sensible Law Enforcement, which spent $53,000 on radio ads.  (The largest non-marijuana donation was $25,000)  There were to be no Republican candidates running in the primary or general election.  Since it was a ballot by mail and only 25% of the Democrats voted,  marijuana advocates got out their vote.

Other voters were led to think the main issue was that the opponent, interim US Attorney General Dwight Holton, had not been a resident of Oregon very long.   In reality, Holton had taken a tough stance on drugs, allowing some federal raids on marijuana producers in violation of law.  He had called the state’s medical marijuana program a “train wreck.”   Medical marijuana came to Oregon after a ballot vote in 1998, but it didn’t come under state regulations until this year.

Winner Ellen Rosenbaum had promised not to prosecute medical marijuana.  John Sperling, also a big marijuana donor, was the founder of the University of Phoenix.  At the time, Oregon’s Justice department was part of a multi-state investigation into his school and other for-profit universities.  Only 25% of the Democrats voted, so it is clear that radio commercials sponsored by pro-pot groups, in addition to Rosenblum’s campaign ads, got out the “weed vote.”   Rosenblum won by 64% to 36%, and the marijuana groups  bragged about their victory.

Two years ago the big out-of-state donors financed marijuana legalization campaigns in Washington and Colorado, but they did not donate to Measure 80,  Oregon’s failed legalization initiative of November 2012.   However, by June 2012, BIG MARIJUANA had already funded and controlled the race for Attorney General that year, which promised that medical marijuana in the state would — relatively speaking — continue unregulated.

 Key Components of Measure 91

This year’s initiative,  Measure 91, would place marijuana regulation under the state liquor board.  The premises of Measure 91 are that legalization would 1) Eliminate 12,800 arrests (The number of marijuana arrests was actually around 2700, politifact.com found.   2) Regulation would do a better job at keeping it away from children (only with good prevention education!) and 3) It would eliminate drug cartels and give profits to the state instead of criminals (highly speculative, with no concrete evidence).

New Approach Oregon hired ECONorthwest, a Portland firm,  to estimate the potential tax revenues of a legalized marijuana industry, if this measure is approved. The estimate of $38.5 million for the first year was to be based on a Colorado’s figures, from the viewpoint of cost/benefit analysis.  Currently, Colorado is taking in much lower taxes than they originally planned.

Although the tax rate would be lower than Colorado’s tax, the experience in Colorado and Washington shows that black markets don’t end with legalization.  Marijuana has been decriminalized in Oregon since 1973, and medical marijuana was approved in 1998. The Oregon Medical Association does not recommend marijuana for medical reasons, or otherwise.  After 15 years, Oregon only began regulating medical marijuana this year, after passage of House Bill 3460.

Why BIG MARIJUANA won in Colorado

The Marijuana industry targeted Colorado for legalization because its largest city, Denver, is in the center of the state.  The Denver – Colorado Springs television market is the only place in the state with a sizable population.   Television ads could target the Denver region, while other parts of the state  were less likely to know marijuana was on the ballot. The Marijuana Industry may have hoped the same thing could happen in Oregon this year.  Possibly they took issue with Madras summit because voters in outlying areas would be getting more factual information about marijuana.  As in Colorado, voting in Oregon is done by mail in the weeks leading up to the election date.

Oregon compares well to Colorado, because both states have a high number of pain pill abusers and other drug abusers.  States with medical marijuana tend to have higher percentages abuse, dependence and teen marijuana usage.  It’s not clear if the difference reflects medical marijuana or the low perception of risk from using pot.  An exception is Maine, which has had medical marijuana since 1998, but its percentage  of youth marijuana use and all drug  use is significantly lower than in nearby states and it can be attributed to good prevention education programs and staff.

States that have high amount of illicit drug usage tend be the states where the highest percentage of teens begin using marijuana at a young age, Oregon included. There’s good reason to believe the Summit in Madras and the entire 12-city tour is very much needed

We ask Representative Blumenauer and other politicians to stop pandering to the marijuana industry and caving to their lobbyists.