Weed and You: SOU Experts Weigh In


Marijuana has effectively been illegal for recreational use in the United States since the Marijuana Tax Act was passed in 1937, and although federally illegal, Colorado and Washington have passed laws making it legal to grow, sell and use marijuana. On November 4th 2014 Oregon voters took to the ballot to pass a similar state statue, Measure 91, an initiative that would make the recreational use of marijuana legal to all Oregon citizens over the age of 21. The measure was approved and is estimated to be in effect as soon as this July.

Marijuana might mean more to Southern Oregon residents then it does to the rest of Oregon. With the precise climate to grow marijuana, and plenty of land to grow it on, the area is likely to have a large concentration of growers and sellers as well as buyers. Jackson County is already a hot bed for illicit marijuana, and some residents are concerned about what their neighborhood might look like when the cannabis trade moves above ground. Based on the statements of the experts assembled at Southern Oregon University’s Hannon Library ,it appears the intricacies of the Control, Regulation, and Taxation of Marijuana Act of 2014 is unlikely to have a huge impact.

The proceedings included a panel of Southern Oregon University Faculty presenting on segments of the bill that pertained to their discipline, followed by a question and answer session. On the panel were Health Promotion Specialist Matt Vogel, Professor of Economics Dan Rubenson, Associate Professor of Sociology Echo Fields, and Associate professor of Criminology David Carter. In essence the panel explained that Measure 91 might not have as much immediate effect on Oregon citizens as once thought. Professor of Economics Dan Rubenson explained, “Taxation of Marijuana is expected to generate about 20 million in tax dollars, which is really small bananas when you consider Oregon makes 1.8 billion dollars off of income tax”.

Carter claimed information that United States jails are wasting money filling their cells with inmates guilty of marijuana possession are not accurate therefore making marijuana legal will not represent a large tax savings in terms of prosecution and incarceration. He says, arrest and jail time for possession represents a small portion of those incarcerated. The statistics get murky due to the fact that many people arrested for marijuana face other charges and have prior records, which changes the playing field in arrests and prosecutions. But according to the ACLU’s original analysis, marijuana arrests account for over half of all drug arrests in the United States. Of the 8.2 million marijuana arrests between 2001 and 2010, 88% were for simple possession of marijuana. Nationwide, the arrest data revealed one consistent trend: significant racial bias. Despite roughly equal usage rates, Blacks are 3.73 times more likely than whites to be arrested for marijuana. According to the National Drug Alliance the number of those charged with marijuana law violations who were arrested for possession only: 609,423 (88 percent).

One thing is certain, with the legalization in Oregon, arrests for possession will go down. But, it’s still possible to violate marijuana laws because it remains a regulated substance much like alcohol and is still federally illegal. Its full impact will not be known until 2016 when regulations roll out. Experts agree it will be important for consumers to be aware of regulations and judicious about how to use marijuana based on them. The full impact may take several years to be fully seen.