Wednesday, at the stroke of midnight, Oregon’s recreational marijuana laws went into effect. As you might imagine, it was a big deal for marijuana legalization supporters. A big crowd of supporters gathered on Burnside (foreshadowing) Bridge in Portland to ring in the new law...and in a stellar display of just how serious the legalization movement takes public health and “responsible regulations”, they immediately proceeded to violate the law they championed. You see, public consumption of marijuana is illegal under the new Oregon law, as it is in Colorado and Washington. Did someone just forget to circulate that memo? Maybe they spaced out and left it on the printer, hate it when that happens.
By the way, does this sound familiar? It should. Right here in Maine, when Portland passed their marijuana legalization ordinance (which also prohibited public consumption), this was part of the celebration at the official Yes on 1 campaign headquarters:
Of course this is the same campaign that brought you other genius ideas like the Drug Duel, which just screams “responsible”, right?
These two episodes in the two Portlands illustrate a larger question when it comes to the discussion of marijuana legalization and marijuana policy. Who is creating the policy and how serious are they about, actual, honest strict regulation? The forces behind the Yes on 1 campaign in Portland, which includes the Marijuana Policy Project, are now behind one of the campaigns to legalize marijuana statewide. If these policies are being casually violated from the get go, without any pushback, can we really trust they are going to be responsible in terms of protecting public health and safety?
It should be noted that legalization advocates hate the photo above, and will moan and grumble every time they see it used as a file photo in a Maine marijuana story. But the celebration last night in Oregon illustrates why those photos are still very relevant, and frankly vital to the debate. These are things that the public in other states considering legalization need to see. They serve as a window into the soul of the legalization movement.
The public has a right to know how seriously, or not, the pro-marijuana forces are about public health and safety. After all, they aren’t just campaigning for these policies, they are also writing them. If their own celebrations immediately betray the promises of “responsible regulations”, what hope can there be that the policies will be protective of the public in the long run? And therein lies the rub. It’s one thing to say you will respect and protect public health, it’s quite another to actually do it.