Take Another Look At Legalizing Marijuana


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In his speech to open the 2007 session of the Oregon Legislature, Gov. Ted Kulongoski spoke eloquently about green things such as sustainability and dollars. Unfortunately, he didn't discuss something else "green" that could be the answer to many, if not all, the fiscal problems in this state. I thought by now some brave legislator might have brought it up for consideration, but it hasn't happened. So I will.

Marijuana. Legalize marijuana and tax it. Shouldn't everything be on the table this session, including raising taxes on a vastly more powerful recreational drug, say alcohol?

Thinking differently about marijuana is hardly new to Oregon. In 1971 Oregon Gov. Tom McCall read an incredible 4,500-word statement before the National Commission on Marijuana and Drug Abuse urging nothing short of a revolution in the way the country handled the so-called marijuana problem.

An excerpt: "In my ... rapping with thousands of young people at the Oregon State Capitol, I encountered many delegations urging reduction or elimination of legal controls of marijuana ..."

In 1973 Oregon became the first state in the nation to decriminalize marijuana, making the sentence for possession of less than an ounce akin to receiving a traffic ticket. The law became a national model. That's the way we used to solve problems in Oregon, meaning devising solutions that other states copied.

Really, the question is not whether marijuana should be legalized. The question is how it should be legalized. In the past, several ballot measures have asked Oregonians if they want to make marijuana legal. They have been fringe-led efforts and ill-conceived. They all failed because they lacked the state's imprimatur.

Thus, I call upon the Oregon Legislature and Gov. Kulongoski to adopt a new law establishing the Oregon Marijuana Legalization Commission.

This body would meet this fall, study the idea and make recommendations on every aspect of legalization from potency to market or state-controlled distribution. The Commission would also be authorized to present a slate of referendums providing Oregon voters with ballot options on how marijuana is to be legalized, taxed and how the revenue will be spent. Each referendum should have a sunset provision so it can later be revisited.

I know what many of you are thinking: The health risks, right? Let me offer a visual rebuttal. As I write this from an Oregon tavern, a man is halfway through a pack of cigarettes, on his third pint of ale and pumping dollars into a state sponsored video poker machine.

Moreover, in the past year I have been in social situations where the following people have used or confessed use of marijuana within the past three months: doctor, nurse, teacher, professor, biologist, winemaker, journalist, editor, land use planner, lawyer, logger, farmer, fisherman, contractor, real estate agent, clergyman, speech therapist, small business owner, painter, librarian, chef, landscaper, masseuse, and of course, an elected official. Not one of these people had a medical marijuana card.

Oregonians, kill the double standard. Let common sense prevail. Let the people decide. Get government off marijuana smokers' backs and into their pockets. The potential revenue stream looks nothing less beautiful than amber, no, emerald, waves of leaves.

Yeah, I know again what many of you are thinking. I don't even use the stuff! I use other drugs, you know, the kind whose trade organization flies a state's lawmakers to Hawaii and then pumps them full of their deadly product to assure it remains socially accepted and lightly taxed.

Newshawk: CoZmO - 420Magazine.com
Source: The Statesman Journal (Oregon)
Author: Matt Love
Contact: matt100@yahoo.com
Copyright: 2007 StatesmanJournal.com
Website: StatesmanJournal.com - The News Source for Salem, Oregon
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