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  The penalties were repealed in 1970.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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Oregon Wineries Go Green – Part II

The first part of this article explained most of the certifications and criteria that make Oregon wines green.  This article is about what wineries do to earn these certifications.

As the types of certifications grew in number, what they stood for became increasingly confusing to consumers.  The Oregon Wine Board, in an effort to make it easier for consumers who wanted to buy green wines to do so, developed Oregon Certified Sustainable Wine so consumers only need to look for only one symbol.

This symbol means that both the vineyard where the grapes were grown and the winery where the wine was made have been certified sustainable.

Currently the following wineries/vineyards have been certified:

A to Z Wineworks / REX HILL Vineyards

Adelsheim Vineyard

Amity Vineyards

Anam Cara Cellars

Anne Amie Vineyards

Argyle Winery

Bethel Heights Vineyard

Carabella Vineyard


Cristom Vineyards

Dobbes Family Estate

Domaine Drouhin Oregon

Faith, Hope and Charity Vineyard

King Estate Winery

Montinore Estate

Panther Creek Cellars

Patton Valley Vineyard

Penner-Ash Wine Cellars

Ponzi Vineyards

Sokol Blosser Winery

Soter Vineyards

Stoller Vineyards

Three Angels Wine Cellar, LLC

Torii Mor Winery

WillaKenzie Estate

Willamette Valley Vineyards

Wooldridge Creek Winery

Youngberg Hill Vineyards & Inn

Zenith Vineyard

In addition to these there are many others that have one or more of the individual certifications.  Seventeen wineries have completed the Carbon Neutral Challenge process to reduce their carbon footprint to zero.

As of 2010, there were 848 vineyard and 418 wineries in Oregon.  The National Agricultural Statistics Service, part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, indicated in its 2011 Report that 17,500 acres of grapes from 72 grape varieties were harvested in Oregon.  This is an enormous amount of land, all efforts made to reduce the impact winemaking has on the environment on this scale can’t help having an impact.

Sokol Blosser, one of Oregon’s oldest vineyards/wineries founded in 1971, was the first in the U.S. to receive Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification for its gravity-flow winemaking techniques, energy-efficient heating and cooling, and waste-water reclamation to reduce negative environmental impact.  Sokol Blosser is also certified organic by Oregon Tilth.

Stoller Vineyards is the first LEED Gold Certified vineyard with its amazing gravity-flow winemaking techniques; energy-efficient heating and cooling, and waste-water reclamation to reduce negative environmental impact.

King Estate winery has more solar panels than any other winery with 4,000 panels on just four acres.  They produce enough energy to run the winery and produce enough extra to power 100 homes.

Soter Vineyards, one of the wineries to complete the Carbon Neutral Challenge, has increased recycling and composting; installed solar panels and a more efficient cooling system for fermentation tanks; reduced weight of the wine bottles by 50%; and retrofitted pumping systems with energy-efficient motor as a result of its participation in that program.

Willamette Valley Vineyards was the first winery in the world to use cork certified through the Rainforest Alliance to Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) standard.  From its beginning Willamette Valley Vineyards has managed the vineyard to control runoff and erosion.  One of its more unique features it that it gives its employees a gallonage stipend of biofuel to use in the cars they use to commute.

The few individual wineries mentioned here are far from the only ones making meaningful contribution to the environment and their communities.  Some on the interesting things being done include:

Using recycled glass and recycled paper products for their packaging materials

Cleaning and drying grape seeds, stems, and skins to use as feed for cattle or as compost

Providing an organic garden for employees and other employee benefits.

Using native flowers as cover crops to attract pollinators

Offering a 10 cent refund for bottles returned for the winery

Oregon’s wineries have become green and are passionate about it.  They encourage each other to try new things and adopt new practices.  With its 15 approved winegrowing regions, Oregon is likely to be a favored place for growing grapes with an eye toward being kind to our Mother Earth for years to come.


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Oregon Wineries Go Green – Part I

Oregonians are a quirky group.  We are fiercely independent, innovative, concerned about the environment, and above all else, we are passionate.  It seems that Oregon wineries are into being green!

When I began looking at Oregon’s green wineries the first thing I needed to understand was, what people generally mean when they say green wine.  A green wine has one or more of these traits: the grapes were organically grown, the vineyard used biodynamic practices, the wine is in environmental packaging, the wine is transported and shipped in environmentally friendly ways, and the winery that made the wines has an environmentally friendly infrastructure.  A simpler statement is that a green wine is made in sustainable, organic, biodynamic, and/or natural ways.

When used to describe wine, the word sustainable means that the wine is made with a focus on three things: environmental stewardship, economic profitability, and social and economic equity.  Organic is a term with which people in general have become familiar.  It means that no fungicides or pesticides are used in the vineyards.  Crop rotation, cover crops, compost, and biological pest control reduce the need for both.

Both biodynamic and natural are terms that have meanings specific to the wine industry.  Biodynamic wineries and vineyards treat the vineyard as a self-sustaining organism.  Herbs, minerals, manure, and composts are used instead of their artificial counterparts.  The well-being of all the integrated parts of the vineyard is considered in any action.  Natural means that nothing is added and nothing is removed from the wine.  The wine is made without additives, using native yeasts, and with only minimal or no filtration.

A number of organizations oversee and encourage green wine making in Oregon.  There are currently 6 certificates available:  Salmon-Safe,  Live- Or LEED-Certified,  Solar Power,  Carbon-Neutral,  Social Charities, and  Organic/Biodynamic.  One part of the work of the Oregon Environmental Council is to help the wineries reduce their carbon footprints.  Low Input Viticulture & Enology, Inc. (LIVE) is among the oldest agencies, having begun certifying wineries in 1999.  LIVE not only certifies that a vineyard/winery uses sustainable vineyard practices and actively works to be a good steward of the land, but it is also involved with issues concerning worker health and safety.  In addition to its own certification, LIVE has become an umbrella group for Salmon Safe (which certified its first vineyard in 1996) and Oregon Certified Sustainable.  LIVE also administers the Carbon Reduction Challenge.  Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certifies that strategies were incorporated into the vineyard and winery that protect human and environmental health.  These strategies might include ways to save water, be more energy efficient, and maintain indoor environmental quality.  Oregon Tilth is a nonprofit organization that supports and promotes  biologically sound and socially equitable agriculture through sustainable approaches to agricultural production,  processing, handling, and marketing.

Oregon wineries are serious about being green.  They are making exciting changes that will have a lasting impact on Oregon.


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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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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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Power Sources of the Future

Americans have become huge consumers of energy.  Our lives rotate more and more around activities that use electricity.  The question is, “Where will the energy we have come to depend upon come from in the future”?

The Oregon Department of Energy (ODOE) was established in 1975 with a daunting mission.  ODOE is supposed make sure that the people of Oregon have affordable, uninterrupted sources of energy.  It is to help the people learn to conserve energy, develop clean renewable energy sources, and clean up waste generated by past power sources.  Currently ODOE supports the exploration of several new sources of energy: solar, wind, wave, geothermal, and biomass.

Wave Energy
Capturing wave energy is in its infancy in the United States.  Europe is much farther along at developing this energy resource than the U.S.  Beginning in 2000, interest in harnessing wave energy began growing in Oregon.  More than $15 million has been spent on preparing to utilize this resource.   It appears to be a nearly perfect renewable resource; yet it is rapidly becoming a source of contention.  The areas required are enormous – one company asked the state for the use of 7,000 acres to search for a place to locate its converter.  Not only that, but the converter would stand three stores above the ocean’s surface and occupy a space 70 feet by 1,400 feet.  These converters need to be located within a few miles of the coast, causing difficulties for fishermen and eyesores for tourists.

The development of wave energy is surging ahead without having guidelines and rules in place.  There are many unknowns at this point such as how will the magnetic fields produced by the converters effect migratory birds, fish, and animals.

A site two and a half miles off the coast of Reedsport has already been prepared.  A PowerBuoy is in the final stages of assembly, and will soon be towed to Coos Bay where it will be rigged for deployment.  When that is complete it will be moved to its destination and connected to the system already in place.  During a trial period of unknown length, the PowerBuoy will use its computer system to adjust to the changing wave motion and provide data to engineers.  Eventually the company wants to have ten buoys in a ‘wave park’ at this location.  Interestingly, hearings will be held on the project beginning Oct. 25 at Reedsport City Hall.

Biomass Energy
Everyone is familiar with this type of energy.  We use it when we burn wood to heat our homes.  Biomass is actually any type of organic material: wood chips, pulp sludge from wood-processing facilities, agricultural crops, and animal manure just to name a few.  Biomass can be converted into electricity, steam, or gas.  It can be used to produce methane, ethanol, biodiesel, or methanol to run machinery.  Most exciting is the fact that it can be used in place of petrochemicals to make clothing and plastics.

Many people are concerned about the carbon that is released when biomass is processed.  However, if new plants are planted to replace those processed, they will remove the carbon from the atmosphere.  Producing biomass energy is considered carbon neutral for this reason.  The concern for scientists is that crops to produce biomass energy will replace crops needed for food in underdeveloped countries.

Additionally, care must be taken to reduce the impact harvesting these crops have on the land.

There are several biomass converters in Oregon that together produced over 27 trillion Btu.  There is only one plant in Oregon that converts municipal waste to electricity.  It has been operating since 1986, in Brooks.  It is estimated that the facility produces about 1.7 trillion Btu and generated 99.2 million kilowatt-hours of electricity.

Geothermal Energy
There are several places in the state where geothermal energy is used to heat to buildings, swimming pools, and resorts.  Currently, there is no electricity being generated from geothermal energy in Oregon.  It appears that will be changing in the near future.  U.S. Geothermal Inc. plans to complete a 26 megawatt plant at Neal Hot Springs near Vale.  In 2013, Nevada Geothermal anticipates having a 30 megawatt plant at Crump Geyser near Adel.

Wind Energy
Wind energy seems like it would be a clean energy source.  During 2011, over ten percent of the state’s energy came from wind farms. However, some pollution is produced in the manufacture of the turbines that produce the energy.  The turbines mar the landscape and produce a great deal of noise. Worst of all, winds are unpredictable; sometimes they are storm strength and sometimes they are still.

The turbines, when located on raptor migration routes, confuse the birds and they become lost.  A small number of bats are killed by barotraumic stress (reduction in air pressure that damages their hearts and lungs).  Unfortunately, bats are killed by the white noise produced by the turbines, over 300,000 bats in a single cave.

Solar Power
Solar power seems to be the cleanest of the emerging power sources.  Environmental groups would like Oregon to be getting ten percent of its energy from solar sources by 2025.  This seems entirely possible since Germany, which produces more solar power than any other country, has less sunlight per year than Oregon.  While Oregon leads the nation in solar manufacturing, it does not implement this technology on any meaningful amount.

However, solar energy does have downsides.  Although solar units can be installed on top of existing buildings and built into new constructions, true solar farms take up a lot of space.  It would take a 100 mile square of land in a place like Arizona or New Mexico to provide enough solar energy for the nation.  The environmental impact would be tremendous, unless land already damaged by mining or other such functions could be utilized.  Strategies need to be developed to deal with the inevitable damage to solar panels, which contain oils and molten salts that are hazardous, before any large-scale production of solar energy can be undertaken.

New ways of producing energy are being developed that have the potential to replace the use of fossil fuels in the production of energy.  In our everyday lives Americans consume tremendous amounts of electricity.  In order to maintain our standard of living into the future, Americans need to develop conservation methods and utilize other methods of producing energy as soon as possible.



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Vegetable Farming in the Willamette Valley in Danger

Canola, originally named rape, has been grown for human use for hundreds if not thousands of years.  It is grown for the oil in its seeds, which can be used for food, to produce bio-diesel and other industrial products and even be added to animal feeds.  There are arguments about its safety when used for cooking, these may or may not be valid.  However, an indisputable danger comes from its pollen.

An Oregon State University study published in 2006, “Outcrossing Potential for Brassica Species and Implications for Vegetable Crucifer Seed Crops of Growing Oilseed Brassicas in the Willamette Valley,” ( makes it clear that growing canola for seed would be a disaster for the farmers growing vegetable seeds in the Willamette Valley.   Canola can cross breed with many vegetables, such as radishes, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, turnips, kohlrabi, kale, and other crops.

The Willamette Valley is one of the best places on earth that is ideal for growing specialty seeds and maintaining seed purity.  The seeds produced here are sold to farmers all over the world.  Seed production brings over $32 million into the state each year, if the invasive canola is planted, it would end organic seed productions in the Valley.  Not only that, but it would make fresh market vegetables unacceptable to markets that do not permit genetically modified crops.  It would be nearly impossible to restrict the pollen to the designated areas.  Two things are possible: 1) pollen could be spread by bees, birds, cars, animals…into the protected areas 2) in the nearly the same ways seeds could migrate and begin growing along roadsides and with crop areas.

The Oregon Department of Agriculture has agreed with all of this in the past.  Canola could not be grown in an area approximately 48 miles wide by 120 miles long – 3.7 million acres.  Without following the required practice of holding hearing and receiving public input, ODA simple announced a “Temporary Ruling” reducing the protected area to only two million acres (  This will allow canola to be planted before the temporary ruling expires.

ODA claims that this sudden change is necessary so that canola farmers can make plans to get their crop in the ground during September.  Since the State has waited ten years to allow canola into the Valley, what is behind this sudden rush?  What is the source of the pressure that caused ODA to dramatically reverse its previous position?

An ironic twist to all of this is that Monsanto could then sue farmers with contaminated, unmarketable crops.  Monsanto has previously successfully sued farmers for patent infringement when their crops tested contaminated.  This is an intolerable result for someone who has already lost an entire season’s crop.

A large group of Oregon farm organizations, corporations, and individuals filed for a stay of the temporary order.  On Thursday, August 16th the Oregon Court of Appeals granted a temporary stay.  It will make a final ruling the week of August 27th.  It is imperative that those who care about the future of agriculture in the Willamette Valley contact Governor Kitzhaber immediately.  This decision will have a lasting effect of the lives and livelihoods of many people without the world.



Filed under Agriculture