Oregon: Debate Shows Flaws in Measure 91

Measure 91 would tax and regulate marijuana in Oregon.   A problem — acknowledged by both No on 91 and Yes on 91 in last’s night “Great Pot Debate” at Portland State University — is that the measure doesn’t allow cities to tax.  To test the  theory that a “weed” can be taxed and regulated, those who crafted 91 wanted taxes to be lower than in Washington and in Oregon.

Problems with the marijuana edibles in Colorado were discussed. Today Dr. Ron Schwerzler admitted he was wrong about 5 children dying from the edibles.  He may have confused facts about the edibles with three toddlers who died from neglect while parents smoked weed.  Added to the two adults who died, there are 5 non-traffic fatalities in Colorado caused directly or indirectly by marijuana. (So far 13 children have been hospitalized for ingesting edibles, 7 of them in IC Units.)   Dr. Schwertzler was correct, however, in asserting that you don’t treat one addiction with another addictive substance.

No one who was debating had the faintest idea how edibles would be regulated in Oregon.    The debate was live streamed October 21 and will repeat on  KATU TV station, Sunday, October 26, 9 a.m.

Measure 91 could set up turf battles between cities and the state over the right to tax.  In last night’s debate, Clatsop County District Attorney Josh Marquis, suggested that it’s not the people, state, or the cities who would benefit, but lawyers who would fight for all sides.   Marquis sounded critical of the state’s aversion to a sales tax. Oregon has no sales tax and Washington, home of Microsoft, Amazon, Starbucks, doesn’t have a state income tax.  So instead of looking for easy solutions to raise revenues, both states have posed the idea of legalizing marijuana and using the tax for drug prevention education and other services.  Thus far, marijuana businesses have resisted regulations in Colorado.

Joshua Marquis
Photo of Clatsop County DA,  Joshua “Josh” Marquis                   Photo: Courtesy of Doug Crouch Photography.

Oregon’s law would allow individual possession of marijuana that is much more than either Colorado or Washington.

Oregon decriminalized marijuana in 1973.  There are about 2,000 + arrests per year for marijuana, but only 70 or so  currently in jail for marijuana violations alone.  Marquis pointed out that the crimes they committed, such as distributing or selling to children,  would still be illegal if Measure 91 passes.

Portland Pre-empts Marijuana Taxes

Last Wednesday Portland city council voted to for a 10% sales tax on recreational marijuana — to be applied if Amendment 91 passes. Votes are counted on November 4.   This action highlights one of the many flaws in Measure 91, which prohibits cities from taxing pot.  Cities like Portland would like a slice of the marijuana pie, since they will need a lot of money to regulate the industry.

Many cities — Hillsboro, Beaverton, Forest Grove– have passed a tax on marijuana, or are considering the action,  in advance of November 4.   Although Measure 91 gives the state  sole authority to tax marijuana, attorneys for some Oregon cities argue that municipal pot taxes will be grandfathered if passed before the election.  Supporters of Measure 91 argue otherwise.

 

Photo on top is DA Joshua "Josh" Marquis of Clatsop County. Photo: Courtesy of Doug Crouch Photography.  Oregon is known for hiking, biking, Mt. Hood and Multnomah Falls. Why change.  P
Oregon is known for hiking, biking, Mt. Hood and Multnomah Falls. Why change ?

A few local leaders think the pre-emptive taxes are a way to justify the marijuana businesses in cities without residents’ approval.   If this happens, Oregon will have the same political battles that have plagued Colorado and Washington.

While Oregon is counting on enacting a lower rate than Colorado and  Washington, estimates vary as to how much money can be collected.  A Portland firm, hired by the sponsors of Measure 91, estimated first-year taxes for the state to be 38.5 million.  A committee made up of state  economists estimated the figure to be about $9.3 million the first year.

Supporters of recreational marijuana propose that by creating a commercialized industry, marijuana can be taxed and regulated.  When governments introduce vice to raise revenues, they risk doing harm to significant numbers of the population.

Back to the Debate

In questions after the debate, supporters of Measure 91 objected to being “criminals,” as they consider themselves under current law, despite the fact Oregon decriminalized marijuana in 1973.  Inge Fryklund, a former prosecutor, argued that legalizing pot can keep marijuana away from children through regulation.  Her debate partner for Yes on 91 was Richard Harris.

No one discussed the possibility of an increase in explosions caused by hash oil extraction, already a problem in Oregon.  This problem increased threefold in Colorado by May of this year.

During the debate,  the idea that legalizing and regulating pot could take profits away from cartels and put them out of business was mentioned.   However, a Washington Post article earlier this year traced the business of cartels leaving Colorado to Central America, where they have introduced poppy cultivation.  There was general acknowledgement that Washington and Colorado still have black markets.   Why does Oregon think it could be different?

(Here’s our first story about Oregon’s Measure 91.)

Marijuana, GMO Lobbyists Pour Money into Oregon

(Second in a series on Oregon) Measure 91 to tax and regulate marijuana is not so much a vote about legalizing marijuana as it is a vote to commercialize it.   Oregon decriminalized marijuana in 1973!

“Commercialization’s goal is to privatize profit and socialize the costs,” explained one of our members in Colorado.

“Marijuana legalization rakes in another $800,000 from big out-of-state donors” was the headline in today’s Oregonian.  The money will fund a $2.3 million advertising campaign.

As of October 17, the out-of-state PACs and donors have given over $4 million — 24 x the amount Vote No on 91 has raised.  Yes on 91 asks Oregonians to expand its pot industry and allow recreational pot shops. — quite a stretch for the only coastal state that doesn’t commercialize its beaches.  (Medical marijuana sellers who recruit so-called patients along Venice beach in California wouldn’t find it as easy in Oregon.)

No on 91 is led by conviction, not money.  As the Register-Guard reports, almost all of its money is from in-state, and there’s a large group of volunteers.  Oregon residents and voters tend to be independent and less corporate, so they may not follow the pack.

Moms Against 91 held a press conference in  on Friday, October 17, in Oswego Lake
Moms Against 91 held a press conference in on Friday, October 17, in Lake Oswego, OR

Big Money Pushes Legalization Ballot; Monsanto Gives to GMO Opposition

Vote No on 91 has received most of its $168,200 from in-state sources.  (Oregon has another ballot issue that is also being watched nationwide, Measure 92, which would require labels on genetically-modified (GMO) foods.  Wealthy donors and corporate interests from both sides of that issue have donated millions.   Most recently, Monsanto gave 2.5 million in opposition to Measure 92.   Oregon Right to Know, in favor of Measure 92, has raised over $5.4 million, while the opposition has raised $15 million.  Dr. Mercola, Ben & Gerry’s Ice Cream are amongst the supporters. )

Unlike the GMO issue, the forces against marijuana legalization have no corporate donors.   Marijuana legalization advocates often claim that pharmaceutical companies fuel the opposition to legalization.  It’s a false notion, because the opposition comes from the public, the prevention community and parents.

Most of the money to fund marijuana originates in the deep pockets of hedge fund billionaire George Soros, donor of Drug Policy Action, and the family of Progressive Insurance founder, Peter Lewis.  Mr. Lewis died in November, but his children have continued the donations. They aren’t Oregon residents.

From Ballotpedia the Top 5 contributors:

Donor Amount
Drug Policy Action $1,350,000
New Approach PAC $950,000
New Approach Oregon $700,000
Drug Policy Action Fund for Oregon $240,000
Philip Harvey $150,000

While Oregon’s 2 gubernatorial candidates, Gov. John Kitzenhaber and Dennis Richardson , support GMO labels, they adamantly oppose Measure 91.  Gov. Kitzenhaber is a physician.

Thinking people of Oregon, please think deeply about this issue.

Civil Rights and Drug Policy in Washington, DC

African-Americans in Washington, DC, do not embrace marijuana legalization as readily as whites in DC — by a difference of 18 percentage points. Judge Arthur Burnett, National Executive Director of the National African-American Drug Policy Coalition, observes that opposition among  blacks to legalization stems from experience.  African-American communities already suffer from a liquor store on every corner, and black voters know commercial marijuana would prey on their communities at a much higher rate.  “Do we really want to substitute mass incapacitation for mass incarceration?” Judge Burnett asks.   He spoke along with others opponents to legalization at a Press Conference in Washington sponsored by Two. Is. Enough. D.C. (TieDC).

Judge Arthur Burnett, Executive Director of the National African-American Drug Policy Coalition, Inc., former senior judge for the Superior Court of the District of Columbia
Judge Arthur Burnett, Executive Director of the National African-American Drug Policy Coalition, Inc., former senior judge for the Superior Court of the District of Columbia

Vanita Gupta is the nominee to head the Civil Rights Division in the Department of Justice. According to a recent article, Gupta, a former ACLU lawyer, endorses the complete legalization of marijuana in every state, with taxation and regulation.  No DC official is more popular in Washington than Police Chief Cathy Lanier, who contends the ACLU doesn’t understand the city (to be discussed in another article).   Washington residents should vote No on Ballot 71 to legalize marijuana and reject the posturing of outside groups.

Gupta has an impressive resume, but the 39-year old would not be where she is today if she lived by the drug policies she allegedly endorses. Had Gupta partaken in pot culture as a teen, she would not have been accepted into Yale University.  If she had spent young adulthood frequently using marijuana, she wouldn’t have become a successful attorney.

Does she understand the nature of addiction?  Does she understand why every minority group voted against marijuana legalization in California?  We cannot have a national discussion of policy without including a discussion of drug abuse and addiction.

Vanita Gupta
Vanita Gupta, nominated to head the Civil Rights Division in in Department of Justice

Our education about the nature of addiction and what drugs actually do—at all our schools, and at every level–should be top priority.  Here is evidence that was recently published in “Press the President,” which featured National Families in Action’s review of the science that underlies drug abuse and addiction.

Five Unavoidable Statistics

1. Availability drives use. The more available a given drug is, the more people use that drug. The most effective prevention strategy is to keep availability to a minimum.

2. 137 million Americans use alcohol regularly; 67 million use tobacco; 20 million use marijuana.

3. The alcohol industry spent $3.5 billion in 2011 to market and advertise its products; the tobacco industry spent $8.4 billion. A commercial marijuana industry will do the same.

4. Age limits don’t prevent underage use: five of ten new smokers every year are under age 18, eight of ten new drinkers are under age 21. Age limits won’t stop underage marijuana use in legalization states.

5. About half of Colorado’s medical marijuana dispensaries in 2011 were located in one city, Denver. That year, marijuana use among Denver’s middle-school students was double that of middle-school students in the rest of the state; marijuana use among Denver’s high school students was 25 percent higher.

Shocking Facts for Drug Policy-Makers

– It’s not your daddy’s weed. The marijuana of the 60s and 70s contained 2-3 percent THC. Today’s marijuana contains 15 percent THC on average. Marijuana extracts such as Butane Hash Oil contain from 75 to 100 percent THC.

– Colorado pot shops are selling candies, cookies, and soft drinks infused with marijuana. Babies, toddlers, and preschoolers are showing up at emergency rooms because they ate them and overdosed. Some have required intensive care to recover.

– Marijuana is not harmless. A just-published review of 20 years of marijuana research worldwide finds that marijuana can impair adolescents’ intellectual development and ability to perform in school. Use that begins before age 18 can result in an average IQ drop of 8 points, enough to place a person of average intelligence in the bottom third of the IQ scale.

– Using marijuana before driving doubles the risk of having a crash.

– One in six teenagers who use marijuana regularly will become addicted; so will one in ten adults.

– Marijuana use doubles the risk of developing psychotic disorders, including schizophrenia.

Another View — Judge Arthur Burnett

Vanita Gupta has said “The war on drugs has been a war on communities of color.”   There’s a lot she could learn from Judge Arthur Burnett. He spent 31 years as a judge in the District. He doesn’t think legalization would keep young black men out of jail, Marijuana would be more readily available, leading more young people to harder drugs.  Scratch the surface of most homicides and rape cases, and the perpetrators were high on drugs, including marijuana. Marijuana introduces people to a culture where they get drawn into other drugs, though it might not be a gateway for everyone who tries it.

Gupta’s passion for racial fairness is admirable, but she doesn’t seem to have drug culture experience.  Drug use brings pain and misery to the users and families of users.  Gupta needs to understand the limited hope for children who begin drug use at an early age. Being a racial minority it hard enough, but why add another strike against minority youth by advocating a program that would increase their drug usage?

Coloradans Tricked into Voting for This?

Yesterday, October 20, the Colorado health department proposed a ban of most forms of edible marijuana in the state’s pot shops.  The plan was scrapped after four hours of debate.   (Pictures of some of some edibles  are in earlier blog postings.)

Coloradans now admit they weren’t expecting the problem with edibles and marijuana stores, when they voted to approve Amendment 64.   They were promised it could “be regulated.”  Thanks to the Marijuana Policy Project, voters were tricked into a commercial program they no longer want, which governor called “reckless.”

CanYouSpotthePotBy early May of this year, nine children were treated at the Colorado Children’s Hospital in Aurora for ingesting marijuana. Seven of these children were in intensive care.   By August, at least three more children had been in emergency treatment for marijuana at the same hospital.    Dr. George Wang, head of emergency services at Colorado Children’s Hospital, discussed in a on Colorado Public Radio interview how marijuana poisonings have increased exponentially in the last few years.

Even adults have been tricked by the edibles, as Dr. Richard Zane, head of the emergency services at the University of Colorado Hospital in Denver explained.  At a county fair in Denver this summer, three people sought emergency treatment after they ate marijuana edibles, by mistake.   Two adults died directly from ingestion of the edibles, one in March, and one in April.

Following the deaths,  H.B. 14-1366 was signed in May 2014.   The bill mandates that the department of revenue, on or before January 1, 2016, adopt rules requiring edible retail marijuana products to be shaped, stamped, colored, or otherwise marked with a standard symbol indicating that it contains marijuana and is not for consumption by children.  Currently marijuana infused edibles must have packaging that meet requirements similar to the federal “Poison Prevention Packaging Act of 1970.”

As one dispensary owner admitted, the edibles makers  just take common candies and spray hash oil on them.

“Marijuana is being sprayed, injected, and infused into almost anything imaginable — candies, cookies, sodas, salad dressing, pasta sauce, ramen noodles, and more — and yet our children and teenagers as well as parents, school officials, and community members have no way of knowing which products contain pot and which don’t.”  Diane Carlson, representing Smart Colorado,  was speaking at a committee meeting in September.  Smart Colorado formed in early 2013, after passage of Amendment 64, to assure that the newly legalized marijuana would stay out of the hands of children.