Vote to end insanity of marijuana prohibition.
When The Register-Guard endorsed a no vote on Measure 80 in its Oct. 3 editorial, "Marijuana legalization: No, Measure 80 over-reaches, under-regulates," the editors erred in favor of big, over-reaching government.
No policy in our nation wreaks as much havoc as does the drug war. In fact it is an international travesty that drives nearly 10 percent of annual global trade into the coffers of international drug syndicates or cartels.
The drug war has created an incarceration system so huge that former federal drug czar Barry McCaffrey called it the "new gulag."
It's not just that we now house more prisoners than China (which has a population four times larger than our own). The drug war has made this a racial issue as well. The United States now has more young black males incarcerated per capita than did South Africa during the peak years of apartheid.
While tens of thousands of Oregonians are now quasi-protected under the Oregon Medical Marijuana Program, hundreds of thousands of us are consuming and purchasing marijuana without any legal protection. We are forced to buy marijuana on the black market or take the risk of growing our own.
Let's replace the highly charged word "legalize" with the word "regulate" and consider what regulation means. Regulation means eliminating the cartels and their growing operations in our forests and wildlands, operations that have many hundreds (and sometimes many thousands) of plants.
Regulation means taking an industry that is already in early stages of commercial development and giving it a legitimacy that would legally employ thousands of people and bring needed income to our communities and our state coffers.
Prohibition of marijuana means that we continue to say to the foreign cartels, "Yes, the pot business is yours. We will not tax you, nor will we demand quality controls. We will encourage you to continue using your toxic pesticides and fertilizers for your pot farms in our wildlife habitats."
Prohibition of marijuana means that law enforcement will continue to waste time chasing Oregon farmers instead of increasing efforts on real crimes such as assault, rape and property theft.
Prohibition of marijuana means that the federal government will continue to intrude into our private lives and limit our health care options to big pharma care.
Cannabis has been studied repeatedly for the past 100 years. Every major government study done (including the U.S. Army's Panama report and President Nixon's Shafer Commission) has repeated the mantra of low addiction and mild effects, and at a minimum have called for no less than decriminalization.
In 1988, after extensive study, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration's own administrative law judge, the late Francis Young, called marijuana "one of the safest therapeutic substances known to man." The reason for that is obvious - it is impossible to overdose on marijuana. Pot does not induce violence. It does have medicinal value.
Industrial hemp's value to Oregon as an agricultural crop extends beyond its value as fiber, fuel and food - as an annual crop it could stabilize the virulent swings from boom to bust in the timber industry and perhaps move timber harvesting that much farther back from salmon-bearing creeks, streams and rivers.
And Measure 80? How much more overboard are its provisions regarding drug education than the DARE program? How is its violation of the Controlled Substances Act any worse than that act itself, which does not apply to alcohol and tobacco?
And what is wrong with celebrating cannabis, as The Register- Guard said Measure 80 would do? Oregon has beerfests and winefests. Oregon is home to some of the most successful small breweries on the planet.
Cannabis holds an important place in our nation's history and truly wasn't a problem until its prohibition. Remember, it was the prohibition of alcohol that created Al Capone and his criminal peers, not booze.
When The Register-Guard editors bash Prohibition II as they do any effort to change our truly harmful and corrupt set of drug policies, I will gladly offer my props and kudos. Until then they continue to err in favor of Big Brother and civil repression. There is little difference between a government that seizes our pot and a government that seizes our guns.
Stand up and help end the insanity of prohibition, again. I urge a yes vote on Measure 80.
Allan Erickson of Eugene, a senior adviser to Harmony Events Medicine, has worked with Law Enforcement Against Prohibition and is a volunteer with DrugSense/Media Awareness Project. He was an employee of redwood lumberman Bill Conde, who was Oregon's leading cannabis activist until he left Harrisburg for Belize in 2001.