Category Archives: Government

Marijuana Legalization and Oregon Measure 80

Marijuana has been mentioned in documents since humans learned to write.  Oregon, as well as the rest of the world, has an evolving history with marijuana.  Measure 80 is the latest attempt to legalize marijuana.

Hemp was first mentioned in China in approximately 4000 BC.  Every society that recorded its utilization noted its diverse uses.  Hempen fibers were used for making paper and clothing; oil from the seeds was used for food, beauty products, and making paints; and the seeds for food, medicine, and for its narcotic properties.

From the beginning British colonies in North America were required to plant at least some hemp to send back to England, where it was in great demand.  Well into the 1840s  growing hemp was encouraged by individual state laws and at times hemp was used in place of currency.

Hemp did not  develop the bad reputation it has today until the early 1900s.  The first laws restricting its use in individual states began appearing during prohibition.  The first Federal law mentioning marijuana, the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937, levied a tax of one dollar on those who were commercially involved with hemp.  Farmers continued to grow hemp (with the encouragement of the Federal government during WWII) until 1957.

The Boggs Act of 1952, and the Narcotics Control Act of 1956, criminalized the use of marijuana and outlined harsh mandatory penalties.  The penalties were repealed in 1970.  In 1972, Oregon became the first state to decriminalize possession of less than an ounce of marijuana.  In 1975, Alaska, California, and Colorado followed suit.  Since then  a total of 27 states have decriminalized the possession of less than an ounce of marijuana.

In 1986, Oregon Ballot Measure 5 would have legalized growing marijuana for personal use.  Since then there have been several other ballot measures along similar lines.  This year’s version is particularly far reaching.  In addition to legalizing growth of marijuana for personal use by adults, it sets up a system for the licensing of growers and distributors.  It would also set up a system of stores similar to those run by the Oregon Liquor Commission.  Measure 80 would also totally deregulate the growth of hemp for industrial uses (see full text at .

The majority of the arguments are the same as they have been in the past: marijuana use is harmless; it would save the money used to enforce current marijuana law ($61.5 million in law enforcement, corrections, and judicial costs).  Measure 80 would free police to deal with “real” criminals; proponents claim it would generate approximately $140 million a year of which 90% of the proceeds would go into the state general fund, 7% for drug treatment programs, 1% each for drug education in public schools, and two new state commissions to promote hemp biofuel and hemp fiber and food.

The reasons for opposing the legalization of marijuana also remain the same.  First of all, there is a moral consideration about using drugs in general.  Other arguments against marijuana use are that it is a gateway drug that causes increases in crime levels, that legalization would encourage the use of marijuana by teenagers, that there would be an increase in healthcare costs due to people driving or going to work after using marijuana, or users might neglect their children.  The least reasonable argument is that legalization of marijuana would lead to the legalization of all drugs.

Even if people are in favor of marijuana legalization, the question is should they vote for Measure 80?  Measure 80 is a poorly written, rambling document that does not belong as a legal document.  It is thorough in proscribing the details of the system it envisions.  However, it makes unsupported implications that George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and others influential in the creation of our nation used marijuana as a hallucinogenic.  Quoting Genesis, and saying that since God gave man all living plants the government has no right to restrict its use, is perplexing.

The most troubling of the provisions in Measure 80, is the description of what would be called the Oregon Cannabis Commission.  The first year the Measure would be in affect the governor would appoint the commission.  After that “five commissioners shall be elected at large by growers and processors licensed under ORS 474.035 for a term of one year, and two commissioners shall be appointed by the Governor for a term of two years.”  This would result in growers and processors policing themselves.

In the section describing the distribution of the monies generated by the measure it assigns one percent to the school districts to fund “appropriate” drug education.  This program would teach children their social responsibilities to others, persuade students of refrain from using psychoactive drugs, provide accurate information of the affects drugs might have on their development, and persuade them that if, as an adult, they choose to use drugs they must still fulfill their social responsibilities to others.

If the people of Oregon want to legalize marijuana, Measure 80 is not the way to do it.  Supporters of legalization would need to put forth a more rational document than this measure.  The relationship Americans have with marijuana may be shifting to a more moderate stance, but Measure 80 is not the next step.



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Filed under Government, Marijuana, Politics

Oregon Voters Asked to Approve Private Casinos

The ballot measures in Oregon for the November 2012 election are an interesting mix of topics.  There are measures that deal with taxes, legalization of marijuana, regarding gill net fishing, and two about private casinos.

The two measures dealing with private casinos are Measure 82, which would amend the constitution to allow private casinos within the state and Measure 83, which asks if the site of the former Multnomah Kennel Club should be used as space for a private casino.  It should be noted that Measure 83, does not include specifics of a plan, it merely asks whether or not this specific location would be a good place for a casino.  Consequently developers would be free to make changes to the proposed casino.  There cannot be much of a discussion about gambling itself, since there is already gambling in the state.  The discussion must therefore focus on the merits versus negative impacts of the proposed casino.

The idea of a nontribal casino presents a number of issues.  The state of Oregon entered into agreements with each of the tribes that currently have a casino.  These tribes use the profits they make from the casinos to provide social services, such as education, health, housing, elder housing, drug and alcohol programs,  as well as other amenities to their communities.  Whether or not a new casino would seriously impact these casinos is a matter of concern

Another issue is now a new casino would impact the Oregon Lottery, which currently funds K-12 education, parks, wildlife, and economic development.  Out of every dollar spent on the Oregon Lottery, 65 cents goes to these programs.  The proposal for a private casino would give 25 cents of every dollar earned to the state.  It is suggested that the revenue generated by lottery outlets near the proposed casino would decline.

Among other concerns about a private casino is that a casino in the Portland metro area would cause an increase in traffic congestion on the eastside.  Some opponents believe that a casino in the metro area would mean an increase in the crime rate.  There are also concerns that a casino in the metro area would lead to an increase in gambling addiction.

Proponents of the casino plan to have more of a resort than simply a casino.  The proposed complex would also include a bowling alley, a movie theater, a water park, a hotel, and restaurants.  The casino itself would include 2,000 slot machines and between 60 and 100 gaming tables.  Proponents anticipate that after construction there will be 2,000 permanent jobs in the complex.  The complex would be built on the site of the old Multnomah Kennel Club (a former dog track) rejuvenating that facility.  The current casinos do not pay taxes; the estimate is that the new casino would generate $100 million a year for the state.

The private casinos are once again before Oregon voters who rejected them as recently as 2008.  It will be interesting to see if private casinos will finally be approved, since Oregon has allowed tribal casinos for a long time.


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Filed under Gambling, Government, Politics

Will Fluoridated Water Come to Portland?

According to the Center for Disease Control, fluoridation of public water sources began in 1945 in the United States.  There has been controversy over its use throughout the 65 intervening years.  The question of whether or not fluoridation is safe continues to be raised.

Numerous groups have come forth on both sides of the argument.  Despite assurances of safety by the CDC, the federal government, the American Dental Association, and multiple other organizations people continue to have concerns about fluoridated water.  The NaturalNews Network (a not for profit international news organization), for instance, lists kidney damage, hypothyroidism, bone cancer, and certain disorders of the brain and nervous system as being caused by fluoride in public drinking water.

Statistics and studies show that there is little danger from water that is fluoridated at the recommended levels.  The current recommended fluoride level in public drinking water is between 0.7 and 1.2 milligrams per liter of water.  It is estimated that the toxic level of fluoride for a 155 pound individual would be 10 grams taken all at once.  This is between 10,000 and 20,000 times the amount in an eight ounce glass of water.

There is a valid concern that infants could receive more than the optimal amount of fluoride if they live in a community where fluoridation is on the high end and they are fed certain powdered infant formulas.  These formulas contain fluoride so when mixed with fluoridated water they exceed the recommended amounts.

Dental fluorosis, a condition where the enamel of the teeth is damaged by excess fluoride, is a problem that occurs in a very small portion of the population and usually in areas with naturally high fluoride water levels.  Skeletal fluorosis is something that is frequently mentioned by opponents of fluoridated water.  However, there have only been five documented cases in the past 30 years.  Cancer is also frequently mentioned as a result of fluoridation; however, this has not been shown to be accurate.

Two of the groups in the Portland area that are opposed to fluoridation are Oregon Citizens for Safe Drinking Water and – two groups from opposite ends of the political spectrum that believe that Portland should not fluoridate its water.  The concerns seem to center around fear of being harmed and economic concerns.

The estimate is that it will cost $5 million to add a fluoridation plant to the water system.  The cost thereafter will be about $575,000 a year, a rather large amount for our community.  A program that makes fluoride available to students, if they want to rinse their mouths out with it, in the public schools could be ended to provide some of the needed money.  This program probably should be ended anyway, since fluoridation is most beneficial before birth through age five years.

Oregonians and Portlanders in particular enjoy being “weird” and individualistic.  Having the choice to have their children receive fluoride taken from parents does not sit well here.  Over 70 percent of Americans drink fluoridated water, less than 25 percent of Oregonians do.  Being “weird” is hurting children’s teeth and health.  As things are now, parents who can afford to do so give their children daily doses of fluoride.  On the average, the children in Oregon have much higher rates of tooth decay than children in neighboring states.  Most low-income parents of preschool children do not have the funds to provide their children with dental care.  Having fluoride in the water would dramatically reduce the number of cavities in this group.

The safety of fluoridation will probably continue.  Scientific evidence indicates that a low level of fluoridation is not only safe, but cost effective as well.



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Filed under Fluoridation, Government

Government Overregulation

Some people believe that government occupational regulations are for the protection of the public.  Some regulations protect industries.  Sometimes it seems that government intervention is excessive.

Most people will probably agree that during the 1950s, when only 1 in 20 occupations were regulated, government regulation was not sufficient.  Today just short of 1 in 3 occupations are subject to government regulation.

A three way struggle is going on in Oregon over braiding hair.  Oregon requires anyone who works with hair in any way, must be a licensed cosmetologist.  It takes 1,700 hours of classroom instruction to get a cosmetology license, at an average cost of $15,000.  Many girls learn to braid hair while still in elementary school.  Yet Oregon requires people to invest more time than to become an emergency medical technician or pest control applicator.

Braiding hair does not require the use of chemicals or scissors.  However, on the cosmetology exam in Oregon, approximately one-third of the questions are about the use of chemicals.  It appears that the state of Oregon is protecting cosmetologists rather than the public.  Cosmetologists believe anyone who works with hair should be a licensed professional.

The conflict came to light when an African American woman who volunteers as a big sister to girls in foster care, wanted teach these girls and the white parents of  adopted black girls how to deal with their hair and how to braid it.  The Department of Human Services supported the idea, but wanted the approval of the State Cosmetology Board.  What she discovered when she investigated was that it is illegal to braid hair in Oregon without a cosmetology license – not even if you do it for free.  (Watch out all you middle school girls – I know that you secretly braid each other’s hair.  I remember my friends and I doing it.)

Compromises have been proposed; perhaps braiders could take classes in hair care sanitation or work under the oversight of the cosmetology board in some way.  Cosmetologists find this unacceptable.  For now women can slip across the border into Washington and braid their hair where it is legal.

The Board of Cosmetology consists of seven members appointed by the governor – six certified practitioners with valid Oregon licenses and one member of the general public. A term is four years in length, but all serve at the pleasure of the governor.  In May, 2012, the Oregon State Board of Cosmetology provided clarification that braiding, combing, brushing and applying hair spray – unless done for a professional photograph or theater performance – must be done by a licensed professional.

To me this regulation borders on being silly.  It doesn’t require more than ten minutes of training to braid hair.  Portland-area lawmakers pledged to file a “Natural Hair Act” during the 2013 legislative session.  I wonder what the wording of the bill will be like and if it will pass.



Filed under Government