Sure, I'm biased. I want marijuana to be legalized in Oregon.
This made good sense before Washington, our neighbor to the north, made pot legal last November. Now, it makes even more sense -- since soon a good share of Oregon's population will be within an hour's driving time of state-sponsored marijuana stores.
Recently KGW TV held a "Straight Talk" debate on marijuana legalization between Roy Kaufmann, spokesman for the unsuccessful Measure 80 campaign that would have made pot legal here, and Josh Marquis, Clatsop County district attorney.
I liked how both Kaufmann and Marquis were respectful, well-spoken, and generally on target with their responses to moderator Laural Porter's questions. But if you watch the 25 minute debate (with a brief ad at the start), I bet you'll agree with me that Kaufmann had the stronger arguments.
Marquis' major less-than-persuasive argument was that use of marijuana in Oregon currently is (1) effectively decriminalized for possession of less than an ounce and (2) is so common, it's obvious that hardly anyone is being prevented from smoking pot under our current laws.
Pretty lame reasons for keeping the status quo.
Kaufmann pointed out that decriminalization (making possession of small amounts a misdemeanor) still results in some people losing their drivers license and incurring other penalties for using a substance that is much less harmful than alcohol.
He said that he's asked law enforcement personnel if they've ever heard of someone smoking pot engaging in domestic violence, getting in a bar fight, or otherwise being spurred into violent behavior by the "demon weed."
The response: nope. Even Marquis admitted that marijuana users are prone to lying on the couch and raiding the refigerator rather than engaging in antisocial misdeeds.
Why, then, asked Kaufmann repeatedly, should marijuana be illegal when society would be better off if people substituted pot for alcohol when they want to imbibe a consciousness-altering drug?
Marquis' weak response was that marijuana is still banned under federal law. (It's looking though, like the Obama administration is going to let the Washington and Colorado legalization experiments move forward.)
I appreciated Marquis' live-and-let-live attitude toward marijuana use, but thought this argued more for legalization than the status quo. If Oregonians are doing fine with quasi-open, widespread marijuana use, why not make it legal?
Kaufmann noted that a regulated system would bring revenues into state coffers, reduce the power of drug cartels, and probably make pot less easy for minors to obtain.
Just about the only time I disagreed with Kaufmann, a skilled public relations guy, was when he said that marijuana legalization would be back on the ballot in 2016. Seems to me that 2014 should be the year when Oregonians legalize both same-sex marriage and pot.