Regulated Marijuana: A safer and more just future

By Anthony Johnson of Portland, Oregon. Anthony is the chief petitioner and a co-author of Measure 91.

Treating marijuana use as a crime has failed. Last year, over 11,000 adults were arrested or cited for marijuana use in Oregon, according to the Oregon State Police. One in every 14 arrests in Oregon is for small marijuana offenses; that's 7% of all arrests in the state. It is distracting police and sheriffs from taking on violent crimes, and it perpetuates a system run by organized gangsters and cartels.

Right now, marijuana is sold in back alleys and on playing fields. The sellers -- drug dealers -- don't ask for ID, aren't held accountable when they sell to young people, don't provide any drug prevention or education programs. Nobody really knows what they're getting because the product is untested, unlabeled and unregulated, while gangs and cartels turn a tax-free profit.

Under the regulated system of Measure 91, marijuana would be sold at licensed, audited, inspected, properly-zoned facilities that are strictly regulated and away from schools. The sellers would be licensed salespeople who have passed background checks, who ask for ID, and who would be held accountable in sting operations to make sure they don't sell to youth.

Only adults 21 and older could buy and possess marijuana. The product would be tested, and packaged in labelled, child-proof containers. Money from purchases would go to legitimate businesses and to taxes used for essential public services.

Under Measure 91, the new revenue from taxes will go to schools, state and local police, mental health and addiction services, drug treatment and drug prevention programs. This revenue will be distributed through a special account that, by law, must go to these programs.

When it comes to regulating, taxing and legalizing marijuana, Oregon has the benefit of going third. We've already learned a lot from Washington and Colorado's legalization of marijuana. Measure 91 is designed to take advantage of lessons learned from Washington and Colorado's laws and improve upon them. And Measure 91 has been designed with built-in flexibility to continue adjusting the law in the future if needed. By the time the first licensed storefronts open in Oregon in 2016, there will be nearly a decade of combined experience and data to draw from in the three states.

It is inevitable that marijuana will be legalized ' and if it's going to happen, we need the right restrictions put into place. Measure 91 controls marijuana from seed to sale; penalizes access by minors; keeps drug-free workplace rules, and prevents public use.

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