Eugene Weekly : Viewpoint : 2.26.09

Legalize It
Even Olympic gold medal winners inhale
by Allan Erickson

Even though Linn County finally chased Bill Conde out of Harrisburg, that darn cannabis issue just won’t go away. Whether you call it pot, cannabis, hemp, ganja, weed or marijuana, the herb is here to stay.

So far 2009 looks to be a banner year for the cannabis folks. Consider for instance that we now have a President of the United States who not only admits inhaling but told us “that was the point.” Consider also that the recent outing of Michael Phelps as someone who knows which end of a bong does what has just about blown the myth of the lazy stoner out of the water.

As always, however, in the shadows lurk those who maintain their loathing for the cannabis plant no matter what facts disprove their prejudices. Dan Harmon operates under the guise of a man with Oregon business and workplace safety in mind, but he and the group he apparently guides — Associated Oregon Industries — want to test the pee of every working Oregonian to make sure we aren’t smoking any unapproved plant matter. Oh, and while he is at it? Mr. Harmon also wants to do away with the excellent Oregon Medical Marijuana Program (OMMP). He thinks that the OMMP “says something about permissiveness in this state, and we’ve got to stop this permissiveness.”

Pot is a plant not of just a thousand uses but of literally tens of thousands of uses — a plant that has shadowed humanity since before we even began recording our history. It is food, fuel, fiber, medicine. It is also consumed for spiritual and, yes, recreational reasons. But not many these days are shocked by a bit of pot smoking. After all, 2009 has shown that peanuts kill more people than pot. Heck, even record breaking Olympic gold medal winners smoke it. One of the nice things about cannabis is that it is literally impossible to physically overdose on pot.

Here in Oregon we still dance around the issue even though we all know someone who smokes pot. I’ve met politicians, loggers, cowboys, doctors, lawyers, carpenters etc., etc., who consume cannabis. It IS safer than alcohol. A person can O.D. on booze, and we recently witnessed the horrific reality that booze and driving kills. While no one should drive under the influence of any substance that effects perception and reaction, the driver on pot will sit at the stop sign waiting for it to turn green. The drunk doesn’t even see the stop sign.

Truly, the prohibition of pot is a scam of the highest order. Prohibition is a self-perpetuating bureaucracy which creates the very problems it is supposed to eliminate. If prohibition worked, would cannabis now be the nation’s number one agricultural commodity? If prohibition worked, would Al Capone have become a millionaire?

There is no logic to pot’s banning. No science, no fact or anything resembling truth was ever presented when the government outlawed a plant that had been a farm staple here since the very beginnings of our new nation. What did serve as the foundation for laws prohibiting pot were racial slurs and xenophobic scare-mongering. Which of course naturally then begs the question of the legitimacy of those laws and policies keeping pot illegal. The question no longer is “Should cannabis be legal?” The more relevant question is “Why is cannabis illegal?”

I’m all for safety and reducing harm. But I just have to point out to Harmon and his cohorts that since Oregon began the OMMP, workplace accidents have declined. I’m not claiming causation, I’m just saying… I mean, after all, it was the DEA’s own administrative law judge, Francis Young, who in 1988 called cannabis “one of the safest  therapeutic substances known to man.” Stress and fatigue are and always have been the greatest threats to workplace safety. The medicine a worker utilizes for health issues is a private matter between a doctor and patient — not the employer, not the government and certainly not Dan Harmon.

The truth will be heard. Cannabis is indeed medicine, a very safe medicine. Those who buried the study in 1974 showing cannabis’ potential as a cancer fighter have much pain and suffering to atone for.  There are consequences for such deceitful abuse of government power.


Allan Erickson of Eugene is a member of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition and the Drug Policy Forum of Oregon and a OMMP cardholder.