Ballot Measure 80: Just say no

Oregon's attempt at legalizing marijuana is poorly conceived and badly written

Voters in Washington, Colorado and Oregon will vote Nov. 6 on whether to legalize the possession and use of marijuana for recreational purposes. While polls suggest Washington and Colorado's initiatives are likely to pass, Oregon's Ballot Measure 80 is struggling to raise money and support. There's a good reason for that: It's ill-conceived and badly written, and voters should reject it.

There are convincing arguments to be made for legalizing marijuana for recreational use by responsible adults. But if it should be legalized — a topic for another day — there is a right way and a wrong way to go about it. Measure 80 is the wrong way.

Reading the text of Measure 80 — on the Internet at http://bit.ly/QLkOaL — makes one wonder if the writers inhaled a bit too much before drafting it. After lofty language invoking the Founding Fathers as enthusiastic hemp growers and cannabis cultivators, it essentially opens the door to unlimited possession by everyone over 21 with virtually no controls.

Washington's measure would use that state's liquor control system to regulate state-owned, free-standing stores and would limit possession to 1 ounce per person. It also would maintain the ban on growing marijuana except for medical use, and includes a strict standard for driving under the influence.

Measure 80 sets no limit on how much can be possessed and would let anyone grow as much as they wish. That might make sense if marijuana were generally legal across the country. As things stand, it's an open invitation to export Oregon pot at tremendous profits. That's already happening with medical marijuana, and there is little reason to think things would be different under Measure 80.

Measure 80 would create a new state commission to regulate sales — but would require that five of the seven members be elected by growers and processors of marijuana. Imagine how effective the Oregon Liquor Control Commission would be if most of its members were distillers and distributors.

The measure's chief petitioner, Douglas Paul Stanford, argues that any problems in the law can be fixed later. That's a long-standing problem with legislating by initiative, and a poor argument for voting yes.

Finally, there is the issue of federal law, which still considers marijuana as dangerous as heroin and methamphetamine and prohibits cultivation and possession. Measure 80 would require the state attorney general not only to defend the law in federal court, but to defend any Oregonian prosecuted for acts legalized by the measure — and to lobby the state's congressional delegation to change federal law. That's a recipe for soaring legal costs.

If supporters of this measure are serious about changing the law, they should watch to see how Washington's carefully written measure fares, and seek to emulate it.

Meanwhile, voters should just say no to Ballot Measure 80.


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