One of the best arguments for Oregon's Measure 91, which would legalize recreational marijuana for adults, is that it will help control pot use among youths.
Today the Bend Bulletin published a great opinion piece by Inge Fryklund, "Time to put adults in charge of marijuana." She is a speaker for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP).
Download Letter: Time to put the adults in charge of marijuana
Here's some of what Fryklund said.
Today in Oregon, kids are buying readily available marijuana from unknown, unregulated sources. The supply chain may go all the way back to some Mexican cartel, and it’s guaranteed that all the profits will go to criminals. No one knows the potency or purity of the substance being sold, or how much pesticide contamination there might be.
People undoubtedly are driving while high — as they do with alcohol — but unlike with labeled beer or wine, consumers have no way of knowing what potency they have ingested before getting behind the wheel.
...With our current enforcement-based system, the responsible adults in the community have abdicated their responsibility to control marijuana, a substance that is both widely available and in demand. We have left all decisions about source, distribution, sale, potency and purity up to criminals.
Instead of proactively working to prevent or reduce problems with the distribution and sale of marijuana, we have been reactive, getting involved only after the sales to kids have already occurred when police make arrests for drug offenses.
...Something that is illegal cannot be managed. Has any public official ever said, “We need to do a better job of managing armed robbery?” It sounds silly. Only if something is legal is it possible for the community to manage and control it.
During the prohibition of alcohol (1920-1933), drinking didn’t stop and there were tremendous downsides to relying on the criminal justice system to control alcohol. Supply was in the hands of criminals, and any dealer prosecuted was simply replaced by another. Remember Al Capone? And gangs fighting over turf? There was no quality control, and hundreds of people died of drinking adulterated alcohol.
The day Prohibition was repealed, state alcohol control commissions could regulate purity, require labeling, license distributors and sellers, and enact and enforce penalties for selling to minors. Beer distributors with contract disputes filed cases in court instead of shooting each other. When was the last time Bud Light and Coors Light engaged in a shootout over store shelf space?
Facts back up Fryklund's thesis.
In Colorado, which legalized marijuana in 2012, tightly regulating and taxing its sale, marijuana use among teens is down. Decriminalization of marijuana doesn't lead to increased use or changed beliefs among youth. Legalization of medical marijuana doesn't increase use among adolescents. A group of teens interviewed by the Oregonian agreed that legalization would not increase use among youth.
As the opinion piece says, currently drug cartels and other black market sellers of marijuana control how it is distributed in Oregon. Contrast this with how marijuana would be regulated if Measure 91 passes: by the Oregon Liquor Control Commission.
At a recent Salem City Club debate about Measure 91, Congressman Earl Blumenauer noted that it is easier for a 13 year old girl to get marijuana than a six pack of beer. Why? Because the sale of beer to minors is tightly regulated in this state, and the sale of marijuana isn't.
Oregonians who care about reducing marijuana use among teens should vote for Measure 91. Otherwise, as Fryklund says, responsible adults won't be charge of controlling the availability of marijuana to youth.
Drug cartels will.