ONTARIO — This year on the November ballot, Oregon residents will be voting on whether to legalize marijuana for adults over the age of 21. 

Oregon Ballot Measure 80, or the Oregon Cannabis Tax Act, is a citizen’s initiative campaign to regulate cannabis and restore industrial hemp in an effort to create jobs, shrink the marijuana black market and create millions of dollars in tax revenue.

The proposal references the abolition of the alcohol prohibition as a previous example of how legalizing and regulating an illegal substance has protected society, and that restoring the hemp industry will also create several environment friendly “green” jobs in a struggling economy.

Opinions on the proposal vary and there are several people who do not want to see this bill passed in Oregon.

“Bottom line, is that marijuana is a drug,” Amanda Anderson, chair of the Malheur County Drug Free Community Coalition Force, said. “If Measure 80 passes, I foresee a lot of issues.”

The coalition force works to convey the message to the public about illicit and unhealthy substances, such as all schedule one drugs, alcohol and tobacco, Anderson said.

“We conduct training presentations, educate the kids and educate the parents which is very important,” she said. “I joined the force because I am against any kind of drug use and that includes marijuana.”

Anderson listed several reasons why Measure 80 should not be passed and provided statistics about drug use in Malheur County.

The first of the reasons she stated was that marijuana is a “gateway” drug that, in her experience, a lot of individuals started out on first.

Another large reason Anderson stressed was protecting Oregon’s youth from marijuana and the harm it can cause.

Marijuana causes many issues with brain development in youth, Anderson said. She said it will give Oregon’s youth easier access to the drug than they already have, and it will send the wrong message to the rest of the country.

“If Measure 80 does pass, it’ll make Oregon appear as though it thinks drugs are OK, and it will bring the wrong type of people into the state,” Anderson said. “We don’t want the perception that we’re OK with drugs. We don’t need marijuana in our community, our families and in the work place.”

On the other side of things, however, there are those who would like to see the bill passed for a number of reasons.

A daily smoker of marijuana, who asked to remain anonymous, shared his feelings about Measure 80 and what he thinks it could mean for Oregon if it is passed.

“When I first heard about Oregon voting to legalize marijuana, I instantly went online and read Measure 80, and I’ve read through it numerous times now,” he said. “While I do feel that some of the points the bill is trying to make could have been written a bit better, I’d say I agree with about 90 percent of what it says,” he said.

The first thing that the anonymous user pointed out was something mentioned fairly early on in the bill about the lethality of the drug.

According to Measure 80, despite thousands of years of being cultivated, there has not been a single lethal overdose ever recorded, he said.

“That right there makes me wonder why this is illegal,” he said. “When I was a kid in school I heard about how dangerous all drugs were and I remember being told numbers of deaths and what all drugs, including marijuana, can do to your health. What I don’t remember being told is that the Center for Disease Control confirms an average of over 400,000 deaths a year from smoking tobacco, but zero from marijuana.”

The anonymous user made it a point to say that he, of course, does not want marijuana falling into the hands of children, and he thinks that this will make it more difficult for that to happen.

If approved, marijuana will still be illegal for those under 21, and the bill mentions that it is designed to help keep marijuana out of children’s hands.

“One thing I always thought people overlooked when it came to minors and any illicit substance, is that marijuana is a lot easier to get then alcohol or tobacco,” he said. “Because there’s so many regulations on the sale of these legal products and the punishments to those who contribute to minors can be severe, it at least puts some type of barrier between kids and those products. There are no restrictions like that in place for marijuana, but there will be if Measure 80 passes and I honestly think it will, in time, make it more difficult for minors to get their hands on marijuana.”

For more information on Measure 80 and to view the bill in it’s entirety visit http://octa2012.org/. For more information from Malheur County Drug Free Community Coalition Force contact Lifeways at (541) 889-9167.

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