Turnaround is fair play, Erik Lukens, editorial page editor of the Portland Oregonian. Today your editorial calls the Oregon Cannabis Tax Act (OCTA), which would legalize and tax marijuana for adult consumption, farcical.
Well, after reading your poorly-reasoned opinion piece I'd like to assign it the same dismissive adjective: farcical. (I'm not alone, based on comments submitted by readers.)
Lukens left one of those comments, a response to Jennifer. Here's the thoughtful message from Jennifer, along with Lukens' offhand reply.
From Jennifer: Dear Oregonian Editorial Board,
What do you feel would be a more legitimate way to tax and regulate marijuana? What would YOUR ideal initiative look like? I think you underestimate the difficulty presented by redefining the laws around marijuana. The Oregon Cannabis Tax Act 2012 addresses the issues in the most complete and effective way, particularly when compared to the other proposals being offered elsewhere. Further, as has been mentioned in the comments already, the legislature can make ANY changes they would like, if there is any portion that is not working. In fact, the legislature will be meeting just as the act goes into effect (presuming it passes)!
I'm amazed at how your board finds fault with everything presented, but never offers alternatives that would be the superior options. How about you schedule a platform to have that "legitimate debate" and let the public participate? Kind of like the transparency meetings you hosted around the state.
From Lukens: Jennifer: Thanks for the response. We haven't concluded that there is a legitimate way to legalize marijuana, as we haven't endorsed legalization at all. We have pointed out that there are legitimate arguments for doing so and for not doing so. What is clear, though, is that this ballot initiative is farcical. I'd even [c]all it half-baked.
And what makes the OCTA so farcical and half-baked? As Jennifer correctly pointed out, the Oregonian editorial board, led by Lukens, didn't point out any substantive reasons.
The editorial didn't discuss the downside of continuing to let Mexican drug cartels and other "dark side" suppliers of marijuana reap the profits of selling a psycho-active herb desired by a great many Oregonians, which is demonstrably much safer than alcohol.
The editorial didn't discuss how much money would be saved by freeing up law enforcement efforts now directed at stopping the sale and use of marijuana, allowing more attention to be paid to truly dangerous drugs.
The editorial didn't discuss the benefits to state government finances by taxing and regulating marijuana, which now is sold in an underground economy where the monetary benefits accrue to private individuals operating outside the law.
Erik Lukens and the rest of the editorial board farcically focused on a minor aspect of the OCTA initiative: the membership of the Oregon Cannabis Commission, which "would license people to cultivate and process marijuana for sale at commission stores."
For the first year, the seven members of the Commission would be appointed by the Governor. Wow, that doesn't sound half-baked.
After the first year, five of the seven would be chosen by marijuana processors and growers. If that wasn't acceptable to the Oregon legislature, the composition of the Commission could be changed by statute. Wow, that also doesn't sound half-baked.
Lukens seemingly was grasping for something, anything, to criticize.
Since the substance of the Oregon Cannabis Tax Act is so strong, based as it is on sound science and policy research, apparently the Oregonian editorial board decided to nit-pick on a minor issue -- the proposed composition of the Commission after the OCTA has been in effect for a year.
LIke I said, farcical.
Mr. Lukens, you should take a look at the composition of boards and commissions around Oregon. For example, I'm familiar with planning commissions here in Marion County/Salem, having been active in land use issues for many years.
Planning commissions often (usually?) are stacked with pro-development people who work in real estate, construction, well drilling, and such. If your editorial board is so adamant about boards and commissions not being dominated by people involved in the area being overseen, you need to start a much broader crusade.
As some commenters on your editorial noted, take a look at medical and nursing boards; the board of geology examiners; above-mentioned planning commissions; forestry, farming, fishing, and wildlife boards and commissions.
I bet you'll find a whole lot of government programs being overseen by people who either work in that area, or have expertise in that area. Is this a good idea? Does this contribute to special interest domination of policy-making?
Maybe. Maybe not.
But that's the real question you should be asking, not singling out the Oregon Cannabis Commission for farcical special attention when so many other boards and commissions are similarly structured.
Hopefully the Oregonian's future editorials on the marijuana initiative will be focused on substance, rather than nit-picking. The paper's readers deserve better than they got in this editorial.