Will Oregon go to Pot?
State Senator Doug Whitsett 9/22/15
Political coincidences are uncommon. Political accidents are
even more exceptional. The seemingly piecemeal progression
toward the legalization of marijuana in Oregon and other states
has been well-planned and orchestrated, and could not be
described as either an accident or a coincidence. It has also,
unfortunately, lead to unintended consequences for residents of
the states who have opted to be first in line to be a testing
ground for these new policies.
The efforts to legalize marijuana in Oregon have generally
corresponded with the timeline for doing the same in Colorado.
For the most part, the same organizations have implemented
similar methodology to successfully advance legalization of pot
in both states, as well as Washington.
In Colorado, the use of medical marijuana was made legal in
2000, medical marijuana dispensaries were established in 2009
and the recreational use of marijuana was legalized, by
initiative petition, in 2012.
Oregon has been led down a similar pathway. Most recently,
through initiative petition, our state legalized the adult use
of recreational marijuana last November.
When Colorado first considered legalization, proponents of
recreational marijuana made several claims to bolster their
case. They said, among other things, that traffic fatalities
would be reduced because users would switch from alcohol to
marijuana, and that the drug does not impair driving to the same
degree. It was also stated that the implementation of tight
regulations would prevent an increase in use, and especially
among the youth.
However, a recent report by the Rocky Mountain High-Intensity
Drug Trafficking Area proves many of the claims made by
legalization proponents to be absolutely false. It provides a
much clearer look at the ways in which marijuana-related
activities are adversely affecting the people of Colorado. The
report could also easily be a harbinger of Oregon’s future under
current marijuana laws.
Marijuana-related traffic deaths doubled in Colorado, from 47 to
94 per year, between 2009 and 2014.
Colorado’s marijuana-related Emergency Room calls have increased
since 2009 by more than 10,000 per year. Emergency room visits
have more than doubled, from about 8,000 to more than 18,000.
Moreover, the State’s marijuana-related hospitalizations have
nearly tripled since 2009.
The annual cost of that increase in hospitalizations, from about
4,400 to nearly 11,500 per year, certainly must exceed $50
Many promoters of the marijuana culture promise significant new
state and local revenue from taxes levied as a result of
legalization. Marijuana related tax revenue in Colorado have
been disappointing. “Marijuana taxes” have raised only about
seven tenths of one percent (.007) of state revenue.
Self-reported use of marijuana among Colorado children between
12 and 17 years of age is now more than 50 percent higher than
the national average. Marijuana-related school expulsions have
increased more than 50 percent since 2009. Last year, more than
5,000 Colorado K-12 students were expelled for the use or
distribution of marijuana.
The Report also describes a burgeoning interstate and
international market for Colorado-grown pot. As previously
stated, growing, possessing, packaging, distributing or selling
marijuana is a felony under current federal law.
All of these negative outcomes reported in Colorado have
occurred in a state where three-fourths of local jurisdictions
have enacted outright bans on marijuana. The report states the
sale of marijuana for recreational use, and marijuana medical
dispensaries, are banned by law or ordinance in 228 of 371
Colorado jurisdictions. The remaining 93 jurisdictions allow
either medical marijuana dispensaries, the recreational sale of
marijuana, or both.
The current leaders of our federal government have chosen to
turn a blind eye towards the enforcement of most federal laws
relating to marijuana. The President and his Department of
Justice (DOJ) have declined to prosecute when the illegal
activities occur within the boundaries of a state where
marijuana is legal under state law. The policy of
non-enforcement creates confusion and uncertainty with regards
to how state and federal laws intersect and operate.
However, DOJ has promised to strictly enforce the laws regarding
distribution or sales of marijuana to minors, and regarding the
interstate transportation or sale of the drug. Under federal
law, providing marijuana to a minor is a felony, regardless of
whether the minor possesses a medical marijuana card.
Transporting marijuana across a state line, for any purpose, is
also a federal felony.
There are other contradictions between federal and state
marijuana laws that remain unresolved.
Marijuana is still considered a Class I illegal substance under
federal law. So is the writing of a prescription for marijuana
use, for any purpose. Nevertheless, Oregon physicians have
written authorizations for more than 70,000 medical marijuana
Records show that nearly four out of every five medical
marijuana cards are issued for the relief of unspecified chronic
pain. The records further show that about 23 Oregon physicians
are responsible for issuing approximately 70 percent of all
medical marijuana cards.
It is our understanding the average cost for a brief medical
exam to recommend medical marijuana runs between $300 and $350.
Using those figures, a few Oregon physicians would have earned
as much as $21 million authorizing medical marijuana cards. Our
state laws actually encourage profiteering by physicians who are
willing to ignore federal law.
Federal laws also prohibits banking transactions related to
marijuana trade. The federal ban results in unregulated and
untraceable cash drug deals. Further, it is unclear how a state
or local jurisdiction could effectively collect taxes levied on
the marijuana trade without running afoul of the federal ban on
marijuana related transactions by federally chartered banks.
An abundance of marijuana can be grown by a medical marijuana
card holder, or by a third party authorized to grow for the card
holder. Under current Oregon law, a third party may not make a
profit through growing and distributing medical marijuana to
card holders. Further, the medical marijuana cannot be sold or
distributed to anyone other than the holder of a medical
This mandated non-profit industry still somehow managed to fund
the services of around 23 high-priced lobbyists to advocate for
marijuana sales during the recently concluded 2015 Oregon
Current state records are woefully incomplete regarding just how
much pot is being legally grown in Oregon as medical marijuana.
Notwithstanding the deficient and inadequate records, we do know
that all of the medical marijuana card holders in Oregon could
not use all of the medical pot that we do know is being legally
grown in the state. They could not possibly use 20 percent of
the legal pot, even if they remained stoned 24 hours a day,
seven days a week.
Further, we are unable to document the destruction of any of the
remaining 80 percent that we know is being grown. What is
happening to that 80 percent? We know it is being grown, but it
is not and cannot be used legally.
The better questions are how much medical marijuana is actually
being grown in Oregon and what is being done with it.
It should be no surprise that the quality of “Oregon Bud” is
widely known. Like Colorado pot, it is already in great demand
across the nation and beyond.
Over the past few years, we have witnessed firsthand the
unintended consequences of this piecemeal approach to the
legalization of marijuana. Our state has been at the forefront
of the issue instead of letting other states lead the way.
Rather than learning from their mistakes, we are serving as a
test laboratory for different policies and regulations
surrounding this new enterprise.
The terms “accident” and “coincidence” cannot be properly used
to describe a set of circumstances that was so deliberately
orchestrated. Prior to the passage of ballot Measure 91 in the
November 2014 general election, voters were presented with a
variety of marijuana-related measures during multiple elections.
Each successive ballot measure was aimed at slowly wearing down
resistance and building support for outright legalization.
Proponents of marijuana legalization have succeeded in Oregon,
Colorado and Washington. A number of other states appear to be
on the pathway to voting on similar measures within the next few
Perhaps their voters will be wise enough to learn from the
mistakes made by Oregon, Colorado and Washington and change
course while they still can.
Please remember--if we do not stand up for rural Oregon, no one
Senate District 28
Email: Sen.DougWhitsett@state.or.us I Phone: 503-986-1728
Address: 900 Court St NE, S-311, Salem, OR 97301 Website:
In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C.
section 107, any copyrighted material
herein is distributed without profit or
payment to those who have expressed a
prior interest in receiving this
information for non-profit research and
educational purposes only. For more
information go to: