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A Judge’s Perspective

Legalizing marijuana makes sense
Judge Bill Riggs
Judge Bill Riggs

As a former Justice of the Oregon Supreme Court and with more than 30 years of experience as a judge, I have reviewed thousands of laws. I have also carefully read and considered Measure 91, which will regulate, legalize and tax the adult use of marijuana. I believe it is both a solid, well-written law and the right thing to do. 

As Oregonians, we have an opportunity this November to cast a vote for common sense. The legalization of marijuana is inevitable, but it is important that we do it right. If Measure 91 passes, Oregon will have a safer, more sensible policy on marijuana, with strict controls and protections and much needed revenue flowing to state and local law enforcement, drug treatment and schools.

At the same time, it will deal a crippling blow to the criminals and drug cartels who control and profit from the current system of treating the adult use of marijuana as a crime. The current system does not deter drug dealers — who don’t ask for ID — from selling to youth. On the other hand, Measure 91 keeps the act of selling to anyone under 21 a felony, and provides additional resources and regulations to help enforce that. 

Additionally, the resources and time spent on the current system represent both a waste and a damaging distraction for law enforcement. Rather than arresting or citing a person every 39 minutes for a marijuana-related crime, I’d prefer our police officers and deputies spend more time going after violent criminals, identity thieves and child predators. We pay for the police to keep us safe. Diverting law enforcement resources to pursuing adults over 21 for no other reason than they choose to use marijuana doesn’t do that.

That is why prominent voices from law enforcement and the criminal justice system have spoken out in favor of Measure 91.

Another compelling reason to vote “yes” on 91 is that we have the advantage of being the third state to regulate, legalize and tax marijuana. Legal, regulated marijuana is on sale in Washington and Colorado, and by the time it’s on sale in Oregon in 2016 nearly a decade of experience will be shared among the three states. 

Traffic fatalities are down or flat in Colorado and Washington. Wasteful arrests are down. In Colorado, teen use is down. Both states have already collected millions of dollars in new tax revenue.

As you consider your vote, I would encourage you to read the measure itself in the Voters Pamphlet. I believe you will see that it is a thoughtful, careful approach that has earned the endorsement of Oregon newspapers like The Oregonian, The Register-Guard, Eugene Weekly and the Medford Mail Tribune, alongside an impressive number of respected organizations representing senior citizens, working families and health care professionals.

You don’t have to like marijuana to see that the regulations and protections of Measure 91 are far better than the system we have now. An Oregon with Measure 91 will be a safer, healthier place than an Oregon without it. I hope you will join me in voting “yes.”