The Great Oregon Pot Debate

On Tuesday, Portland State University sponsored the first statewide televised debate addressing marijuana legalization in Oregon. If Measure 91 passes in November, it would allow Oregonians 21 and older to possess up to eight ounces of marijuana and up to four plants, and it would legalize the entire chain of manufacture and distribution of marijuana.

You can watch the debate here.

Richard Harris, former director of Oregon’s Addictions and Mental Health services division, and Inge Fryklund, former prosecutor, presented the arguments for legalization and in support of Measure 91. One of their primary arguments supporting legalization was that a tightly regulated system will divert demand from the black market, undermining drug cartels and other illegal activity. This argument is in line with the enforcement priorities of the federal government outlined in the Cole Memo.

Those who spoke in opposition to Measure 91 argued that the measure will not adequately regulate marijuana stores and took issue with product labeling and child proof packaging requirements.

What the opposition to 91 people seem not to understand is that Measure 91 does not purport to be the be all end all of marijuana regulation in Oregon, nor will it be. The Oregon Liquor Control Commission will be charged with developing specific additional rules and regulations to govern such things as security, advertising, licensing, labeling, and packaging. It therefore makes no sense to oppose Measure 91 because of alleged shortcomings regarding these things. Measure 91 will create a tightly regulated system that will undoubtedly look different from Oregon’s current medical regime.

Fryklund made the point that supporting Measure 91 does not mean condoning the use of marijuana. She explained, “the people who are supporting Measure 91 are not pro-pot, we are pro-regulation. You can’t regulate something that is illegal.” Legalization and strict regulation create a safer system for everyone, whether they consume cannabis or not. Legalization also generates tax revenue, diverting revenue from the cartels and depositing it into the coffers of the state.

Big issues, such as the disparity in marijuana arrest rates between African Americans and Caucasians were also raised. Fryklund noted that in Oregon, African Americans are twice as likely to be arrested for marijuana charges than Caucasians.

The debate was well-attended and the audience was dynamic and we applaud this sort of open debate and especially its being televised

The vote is on November 4.

Vote yes on 91.