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Rep. Blumenaur, Chapman drum up support for marijuana legalization

By Emily Sisk

“How many of you have smoked marijuana in the past?”

Almost every hand in the room is raised.

The question was posed by Milo Frazier, the Chemeketa chapter leader of Students for Sensible Drug Policies, to a crowd of about 70 that had gathered in Oct. 30 in Chemeketa’s Student Center to hear Ed Blumenaur, D-Ore., speak in favor of Measure 91.

Blumenaur has been the U. S. representative for Oregon’s Third District, which includes most of eastern Portland, since 1996. He also has been vocal about his desire to see marijuana legalized since the late 1970s.

Measure 91, which was passed on Nov. 2, legalizes and regulates marijuana use, growing, and sales in Oregon for adults 21 and over. Proponents of the measure cited the already large demographic of marijuana users and shifting public attitudes as a basis for adopting legalization.

Another focus of supporters was the potential for economic growth and state revenue from the sale of marijuana. The taxes from sales will be distributed to education, mental health services, and law enforcement resources.

That means the state will profit from marijuana instead of spending money against it.

“We have, in this state, spent upwards of $50 million a year in an attempt to enforce a failed policy of prohibition,” Blumenaur said in his comments to Chemeketa students.

The black market for marijuana is currently controlled in some areas by drug cartels. Blumenuar argued that the measure would prevent them from using the cash flow to fund nefarious activities and also would keep children from procuring the drug because under the law, I.D. checks would be strictly enforced.

Blunenaur also brought up the lopsided statistics of marijuana arrests for possession among white people and people of color. In those circumstances, according to the ACLU, African Americans are 2.1 times more likely to be arrested than white people in Oregon.

Nationally, the average rate is more than 4 times more likely.

“Most fundamentally, the reason we need to get this right is that our marijuana laws in the United States are enforced in ways that are arbitrary and unfair,” he said.

Taylor Marrow, a Chemeketa history instructor who is the adviser for SSDP on campus, shared his own experiences with the racial disparity in marijuana arrests and how they’ve formed his opinion in favor of legalization.

“Being a black person, family members, cousins, relatives, friends in my neighborhood – all had encounters with cops over these horrible drug policies and mandatory minimums,” he said.

“They’re horribly racist. They impact black people more than any ethnic group, and we need to get rid of them.”

Sam Chapman also spoke at the Chemeketa event. He told of his experiences with the law after teachers discovered that he had smoked a joint on his last day of high school.

After an imposed counseling session, Chapman enrolled at the University of Oregon, where he joined the SSDP chapter.

As a senior, Chapman co-wrote House Bill 34-60, which legalized medical marijuana dispensaries in the state. He now consults for marijuana entrepreneurs in Portland and is considered an expert on medical marijuana laws and regulations.

“I truly think that 34-60 has prepared Oregon for the next step, which is full adult use,” he said.

Now that Measure 91 has passed, adults will be able to sell marijuana with a license. They also will be able to grow hemp in licensed college and university programs.

When asked if he could see Chemeketa starting a hemp program in the future, Frazier said he thought that it could happen.

“I don’t see why not,” he said.

Now that the measure has passed, representatives of the local SSDP chapter said they would focus on regulation for other drugs and alcohol.

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