On Friday, Mandi Puckett, the head of the No on Measure 91 campaign trying to defeat legalization in Oregon, held a press conference Friday that was chock full of concerned moms and precocious kids. More telling was the presence of law enforcement and drug treatment professionals joining in to protect the drug war grants and easy forced rehab clients they get from prohibition.
As I watched the live stream of their press conference, however, I was shocked by how often these anti-pot crusaders made the case FOR legalizing marijuana under Measure 91. For instance:
There's no such thing as "medical" marijuana!
Julie Russell, a marriage and family counselor, told the media that "The advocates of this Measure 91 want you to believe that marijuana has medicinal value, which couldn't be anything further from the truth." It may not be shocking to hear that in Idaho or Oklahoma or Mississippi, but Oregon has had medical marijuana since 1998. We just topped 69,000 registered patients. Our legislature has voted to expand medical marijuana twice. Our state government even swiped medical marijuana program money to balance other state budgets.
But if you really believe there's no medical in marijuana, that people are just faking it to get high, then doesn't that argue for legalization to end the charade?
Kids can easily get marijuana now!
Connie Ramaekers, a thirty-year career drug prevention counselor, described the current state of prohibition and its effect on kids. "The kids are telling me, they say, within five minutes they can get marijuana! It's much easier than tobacco or alcohol to get into their hands!"
Why do you suppose that is, Connie? Because drug dealers don't check ID!
We just can't afford to legalize marijuana!
Project SAM's Dr. Kimber Richter, flown in from the East Coast and put up in Portland for the weekend, joined the press conference to predict that legalization of marijuana would cost us far more than it brings in from tax revenue. "We won't even be able to project what the public health harms will be, and the costs that we're seeing now -- the $1 in tax revenue for the $10 in social costs -- who knows where that's going to be with marijuana?"
That's the classic Sabet Conjecture -- Kevin Sabet's idea that since alcohol and tobacco cost us ten times what they make in taxes, so too would it be with far safer, non-toxic, less addictive marijuana. Somebody in the media needs to ask Sabet and Richter and anyone else floating this ludicrous claim to quantify the $450 million in social costs Colorado's experienced, since they've raised $45 million to date in tax revenue.
There's not enough drug treatment in Oregon!
Serenity Lane professional rehab Dr. Ronald Schwerzler warns the media that "There's no adolescent [drug] treatment, by the way, in the state of Oregon. You cannot get your adolescent treated. You almost have to wait until they're 18. By then, the damage has been done."
Well, then it is a good thing that Measure 91 devotes 25% of its tax revenue to drug prevention, treatment, and mental health programs, huh?
There will be mass advertising for marijuana to our kids!
The most audacious claim comes from professional rehab specialist Mandi Puckett, the head of the No on 91 campaign. "Again, the biggest concern that we as moms have is how this is going to affect kids. With mass commercialization, advertising, promoting, normalizing marijuana use. That's what comes along with Measure 91."
Perhaps Mandi Puckett didn't read Section 7 of Measure 91, which states, in part: "Powers and duties of Oregon Liquor Control Commission. (1) The Oregon Liquor Control Commission has the powers and duties... (2) includ[ing] the following (g) To regulate and prohibit any advertising by manufacturers, processors, wholesalers or retailers of marijuana items by the medium of newspapers, letters, billboards, radio or otherwise."
No on 91 wants to pretend it is a coalition of concerned parents and teachers but a quick look at the Oregon campaign finance database finds that No on 91 gets 98.6% of its funds from the Oregon State Sheriffs Association and the Oregon Narcotics Enforcement Association. This press conference was just another attempt to try to scare people about legalization - a scare that has lost a lot of its power now that we know the two top-selling marijuana shops in Washington State are just across the river from Portland in Vancouver, Washington.