Sunday, October 17, 2010

Oregon Measure 74 - Guest Commentary

Steven Casey, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) member, offers another perspective on Measure 74, previously addressed in my commentary Voting in Oregon - 2010.

We have a number of issues put to us for a vote. Our voters’ pamphlet tells us that in addition to arguments pro and con, appointed “citizen panels” provide “impartial” explanations of some proposals. Yeah, sure. Methinks the “citizen panels” were loaded pretty heavily to the port side, but maybe that’s just me.

My favorite this election season is Measure 74, a reasonable adjustment of Oregon’s medical marijuana law. Let’s start here: Medical marijuana is already legal in Oregon. Under current law, holders of medical marijuana cards have to grow their own weed – difficult under most circumstances – or obtain it from a grower who can supply no more than four people. The ballot proposition would allow “dispensaries” where holders of medical marijuana cards go to purchase their mary jane – and such dispensaries would be regulated and taxed by the state.

Some don’t like Measure 74 because they don’t like the use of marijuana – for medical or recreational purposes. One argument says this is merely the camel’s nose under the tent of legal-for-all marijuana. I say “So?”

Many people do not like alcohol and tobacco, on moral, medical or religious grounds. But we don’t outlaw those substances. We tried Prohibition once. How did that work out for us?

It’s time for a little reality, here. Our nation has squandered billions of dollars on a hopeless “war on drugs.” That war is over. We lost. Our biggest accomplishment has been making huge numbers of the world’s most vicious monsters unimaginably rich – so rich they can buy entire countries and corrupt or intimidate justice systems throughout the world.

While many police chiefs, sheriffs and prosecutors oppose Measure 74, that’s hardly persuasive – it’s expected. They are in charge of the drug-fighting machine, and sincerely believe they are on the side of the angels. As someone who has spent the better part of a career in law enforcement and prosecution, I take a different view, as do many others who have been soldiers in the war on drugs.

Marijuana – medicinal or recreational – is here to stay and it is high time, you should pardon the expression, we treated it as an herb to be regulated, quality-controlled and taxed. Let us get marijuana revenue working for our citizens, not enriching murderous thugs.

The results of this election, in Oregon and around the country, will be fascinating. Our votes for candidates and measures are our exercise of democracy. Some fear that H. L. Mencken was right: “Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want and deserve to get it good and hard.” Sure hope they’re wrong.