Oregon could become a pioneer state in more than one sense as its Nov. 6 ballot voting will determine the legalization of marijuana. If passed, Measure 80, otherwise known as the Cannabis Tax Act, will legalize recreational marijuana for adults over the age of 21. Advocates of the measure hope to tax and regulate the drug, thus adding revenue to the state budget and ending prohibition on something that has long been viewed as part of Oregon culture.
Oregon, Washington and Colorado all have pot legalization on their 2012 ballots. California tried to change marijuana prohibition laws back in 2010, but voters declined the measure, as it contradicted federal laws against the drug. This year, however, these states hope to succeed in changing state and eventually federal laws.
“If we all had a bong, we’d all get along”
The primary reason why advocates support Measure 80 is the fact that criminalizing pot has failed.
“Prohibition of marijuana never made sense to me,” said Oregon State Representative Peter Buckley. “It causes more harm than it does good.”
Rep. Buckley sees inconsistencies with the way alcohol is legal and marijuana is not; just as the nation improved once Prohibition ended with regulated alcohol, so he hopes the nation will improve with pot legalization.
Outlawing the drug strains the state budget, advocates say, and when the state has dismissed 9 percent of its teachers already, more money should go to education, rather than the prosecution of marijuana users. With people in prison for marijuana possession and law enforcement spending money on public safety and prosecution, Rep. Buckley thinks the state budget could save and make money by decriminalizing it.
Additionally, those in favor of recreational marijuana being legalized direct voters’ attentions to Denmark and the Netherlands, countries where it is already legalized.
“Societies that have decriminalized [marijuana] don’t have anything close to our drug abuse rate,” said Rep. Buckley. Instead of operating out of a mindset of fear and a war-on-drugs mentality in law enforcement, Buckley hopes the passing of Measure 80 will pull resources toward regulation instead of criminalization. This, he says, will benefit society as a whole.
“Put that stash in the trash”
District attorneys and law enforcement constitute the primary opponents to Measure 80. Along with marijuana legalization contradicting federal laws already in place, their primary objection is that marijuana is an addictive substance.
“First and foremost, addiction is one of the leading contributions to crime in our community,” said Marion County Sheriff Jason Myers. “Addiction is the number one reason why people are incarcerated.”
Myers refers to marijuana as a gateway drug, an addictive substance that he has seen be a catalyst for other crimes and problems within families and society. If pot is legalized, he thinks its accessibility and prevalence will create opportunities for other illegal drugs and make law enforcement even busier.
“It’s going to be difficult to regulate it,” he said. “Once a person uses that, it opens it up to a lot of other illegal substances…why would we want to go there?”
While proponents of Measure 80 think pot becoming a common and unimportant substance is a positive thing, Sheriff Myers thinks its use will increase in a negative way as it becomes more socially acceptable. Additionally, the black market for the drug, which is most prevalent in Southern Oregon, will not cease to operate, contrary to the predictions of those in favor of Measure 80.
“My guess is the black market will be less expensive than what’s grown and taxed,” said Myers. Thus, users might still opt for buying the drug from the black market, which will do nothing to eliminate the number of drug cartels and crime related to them.
How Measure 80 relates to Corban
Statistics show that while less than 20 percent of Corban undergraduates have used pot, approximately 30 percent are in favor of Measure 80.
“People who use marijuana will use it regardless of it being legal or not,” said freshman Randi Donahue. “As with alcohol, each person will end up making his or her own decision on whether or not he or she will use it in abusive manner. By making it a legal substance, the government will have the ability to tax revenue and that alone may lower the use of it.”
The other 70 percent of Corban students disagree.
“I feel it will cause more chaos, just like any other addictive substance,” said senior Melissa Jones. “I have seen it ruin my extended family financially, emotionally and physically.”
Regardless of whether or not pot may be legal soon, Student Life at Corban takes the use of marijuana seriously, and nothing about its policies is likely to change, according to Dr. Nancy Hedberg, vice president of Student Life.
“At times, marijuana violations have been treated more seriously than alcohol,” she said. “But students have been expelled for both alcohol and marijuana use.”
Student Life’s disciplinary process regarding marijuana sometimes involves a contract and a mentor; however, in instances of repeated use, the policy calls for expulsion. Hedberg recalls about 10 or fewer of these cases in the past 20 years. She describes most students’ involvement with pot as “going along with the crowd,” where certain instigators create a drug mindset and drag others along to use pot with them.
“[Marijuana] can impact your intellect and motivation,” she said. “It has some real consequences that are negative. I am not in favor of it being legalized because it will not enhance our society as a whole.”
Hedberg took a biblical stance on the issue of marijuana as well, saying it is something students should not get involved in, as it is self-destructive and damaging.
“We are admonished to take care of our bodies as temples,” she said.