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Flashback: Oregon Prohibitionists’ ’98 Predictions About Marijuana

Russ Belville

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With Measure 91 on our Oregon ballot to legalize marijuana this November, I thought it would be interesting to look back to the 1998 campaign to legalize medical marijuana in Oregon. It was Ballot Measure 67 and there were numerous ballot statements in opposition predicting all manner of doom if we allowed sick people to use marijuana in the Beaver State.

“Fetal Marijuana Symptoms are similar to those of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, both, preventable.”
-John E. English, Director, For Our Children’s Children

There have been zero cases of “fetal marijuana syndrome” in Oregon since 1998… because such a diagnosis does not exist.

“This measure sends the message to our children that smoking marijuana is ok…”
-Stanley Fields, Recovering Addict

“Research shows that among the conditions which put youth at-risk for drug use are community standards which are tolerant of use and adult attitudes that are favorable toward use. Passage of Measure 67 would send the wrong message to youth.”
-Stephanie Soares Pump, Executive Director, Southern Oregon Drug Awareness

In 2001 (the earliest this question was asked) the Oregon Healthy Teens Survey found that 41.1% of eleventh graders and 60.4 percent of eighth graders believed people were at “great risk” or “moderate risk if they try marijuana once or twice.” In 2013, the survey showed 48% of eleventh graders and 64.2 percent of eighth graders believed trying marijuana was risky. It looks like they got the message that smoking marijuana is not OK for them.

“67 will make marijuana even more available to Oregon’s youth.”
-Jennifer Hudson, Oregonians Against Dangerous Drugs

“Law enforcement officials and medical professionals overwhelmingly reject measures such as these, which will increase young people’s access to dangerous drugs.”
-Pat Harmon, Oregon Peace Officers Association

In 1999, the Oregon Youth Risk Behavior Survey (which is data from the prior year, 1998, when medical marijuana didn’t exist) showed 21.9% of eleventh graders  and 9.2 percent of eighth graders  used marijuana in the past month. In 2013, the Oregon Healthy Teens Survey showed 20.9 percent of eleventh graders and 9.7% of eighth graders used marijuana in the past month. It appears that no more kids are using marijuana now than before medical marijuana.

Interestingly, data for teen perception of access to marijuana isn’t collected anymore. In 2001, 82.3 percent of 11th graders were asked “if you wanted to get some marijuana, how easy would it be for you to get some?” with 82.3 percent saying it would be “very easy” or “sort of easy” to access. In 2008, the number had fallen to 70.2 percent. That question is no longer asked in the survey, but the survey still asks about ease of accessing alcohol, tobacco, and “If you wanted to get a drug like cocaine, LSD, prescription drugs or amphetamines, how easy do you think it would be for you to get some?” Perhaps having a consistent super-majority of teens saying they can easily get marijuana wasn’t something the state wanted us to be aware of?

“Instead of stopping crime, Measure 67 would be encouraging criminal activity and eroding the fabric of our society.”
-Lou Beres, Executive Director, Christian Coalition of Oregon

In 1999, the Oregon Uniform Crime Report shows that there were 38.5 violent crimes and 472.7 property crimes  per 10,000 Oregonians. In 2012, the report shows there were 25.1 violent crimes and 329.2 property crimes per 10,000 Oregonians.

So when you read the dozen opposition statements against Measure 91, keep in mind that that the same sort of doom predicted in 1998 is being predicted again in 2014 by the same type of people. Also remember that eight of the dozen statements are presented by the No on Measure 91 campaign in the name of Mandi Puckett, a career drug rehab professional, and that 98.6 percent of the funding for the No on Measure 91 campaign comes from the Oregon State Sheriffs’ Association and the Oregon Narcotics Enforcement Association.

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