Monday, May 7, 2012

Satire? Or too much "medicine"?

The Oregonian ran an on-line Op-Ed from a  marijuanaophile who claims that if weed were legalized the whole criminal justice would collapse. It's either heavy-handed satire or too much "medicine."

According to figures from the State Corrections Department about 7% of the 14,000 people in Oregon's prison are there for "drug" offenses. That's 980 people. That number isn't broken out by drug but, based on my 25 years experience practicing in four counties, my best guess is less than 15% of that 7% is for marijuana-related crimes. That's less than 147 people.

Measure 11 does NOT include any drug offenses, not even giving heroin to a minor, and Oregon judges are severely limited in their discretion by Sentencing Guidelines which prescribe a non-prison sentence for the vast majority of persons convicted of selling marijuana.

Fully 70% of Oregon inmates are in prison for "person" crimes -- crime involving violence directly against a victim. The burglary of a home, if someone is not home, is NOT considered a person crime.

State legalization of marijuana is meaningless unless the Feds reschedule the drug. If marijuana -- a substance marijuana mogul and advocate Paul Stanford refers to as "relatively non-addicting" -- were to be legalized by the FEDERAL government I would expect absolutely no real reduction in workload for my office or for the police or the drug team. Oregon's law enforcement officers mostly trip over marijuana cases.

One case I prosecuted a few years ago is typical. Someone with prior convictions and some sort of "medical marijuana card" greatly exceeding their plant limit and was growing in public view right next to a school. Parents of the school children complained.  Sheriff's deputies made not one, but two trips simply to warn the illegal grower to get back in compliance with the already-lenient regulations concerning "medical marijuana". When he refused he was convicted, but he did not go to prison.

The Op-Ed writer may be confusing Oregon law with the extremely harsh federal drug laws, which account for about 8% of all inmates nationally. He also apparently is unaware that Oregon abolished bail bondsmen 40 years ago and that law enforcement joined with civil liberties groups last year to oppose any attempt to re-establish a bail bonds system.

The narco-violence that exists primarily In Mexico and Central and South America is the result of those nations' abdication to drug lords who will run anything they can make money on.

The same distribution network is used for any of the drugs moved by the cartels -- heroin, meth and sometimes marijuana, although Mexican marijuana is rarely seen in the Pacific Northwest since it is so easy to grow and generally the THC content of local marijuana is much higher because of growers' expertise.

As I wrote in the Oregonian eight years ago, marijuana is a legitimate medicine for some people. Accordingly it should be re-classified as a schedule 2 drug that doctors can prescribe and pharmacies can disburse.

Oregonians have been rational about marijuana for decades. We were the first state (led by the Lane County District Attorney in 1973) to decriminalize possession into a non-crime. Oregonians are compassionate and wanted sick people to have access to the drug (and it IS a drug, not a holy sacrament or the answer to all the world's ills). Voters were told in 1998 that maybe 500 to 1000 people would qualify for medical marijuana cards. There are now more than 55,000 card-holders in Oregon. Fewer than 10% have the medical conditions that were discussed in the 1998 election.

Finally, ponder this. Anyone who thinks that legalizing marijuana will bring in boatloads of taxes needs to remember the nature of pot. It is a weed. It grows easily, almost anywhere. Unlike all the other intoxicants, legal and illegal (vodka, tobacco, oxycontin, heroin, cocaine, etc.) the production of marijuana can be carried out by any high school drop-out in their basement. Why would most people wanting to grow it submit to government regulation for something so simple to make?


  1. So, Josh, how come Sheriff Bergin rails against marijuana dispensaries but we have four in Clatsop County he won't touch because he says you have told him to lay off them?
    In spite of this article, it sure sounds like you are supporting marijuana, or is Bergin lying again?

  2. The state law is so ambiguous that the feds have the primary responsibility for regulating "dispensaries." There really aren't dispensaries. Oregon voters rejected them in 2010. One of the reason current state law is such a mess is there is no enforcement mechanism.
    Also, frankly, the drug team spends most of its time on heroin and Oxycontin and meth.

  3. Robert D. Peterson, MDJune 16, 2012 at 6:08 PM

    One synthetic standardized medication, dronabinol (Marinol) offers the therapeutic benefits that have been ascribed to marijuana. Home grown or imported marijuana as consumed by the usual "card holder" for "medicinal purposes" is not and can not be standardized for dose and potency. Thus, it can not be used as a legitimate medication in a safe manner, any more than home grown digitalis could be used to treat heart problems safely. Granted the "therapeutic" margin versus toxicity is much more liberal for marijuana, but it is ludicrous to portray this as a medicine. Offering legitimacy to home grown medicinal marijuana is similar to legitimizing moonshine, which not all that long ago was advertised as a cure for many ills, just as the marijuana of today is touted as a cure all.

    This is not a safe drug, especially for the aging boomers with cardiovascular, neurological and mental health problems. I find that the rapid heart beat often induced by the substance is difficult to counteract with normal doses of cardiac medications, thus risking heart attacks and other problems for many local patients.