Oregon's leading drug addiction expert appears today in the first TV spot in a $2.3 million advertising campaign to regulate, tax and legalize marijuana for adults 21 and older.
The advertising buy made by the Yes on 91 campaign is the largest so far for a 2014 Oregon ballot measure.
The first TV advertisement features Richard Harris. As the former director of the Addictions and Mental Health Services for the state of Oregon, he held the highest position in the state for directing drug treatment and addiction programs. He is volunteering with the campaign.
The ads will run on television stations throughout Oregon. The Yes on 91 campaign also has several ads running on pre-roll online. Watch the ad featuring Harris on YouTube or click here to download it.
"Criminalizing marijuana ruins lives and wastes resources," Harris said. "Instead of sending people to jail and turning them into hardened criminals, we should treat marijuana as a public health issue and create a system that raises money for prevention programs and mental health programs. Right now, there is no state appropriated money in Oregon for drug and alcohol prevention programs, including for marijuana, but Measure 91 would change that."
"This is the largest ad buy made by any marijuana regulation campaign in Oregon history," said Yes on 91 campaign director Liz Kaufman. "The campaign will focus efforts on making the case to every possible Oregon voter, and more and more Oregonians and organizations are endorsing us every day."
Harris joins retired state Supreme Court Justice Bill Riggs, the Oregon ACLU, the Oregon State Council for Retired Citizens and a growing number of Oregonians across the state who have endorsed the Yes on 91 campaign. Several independent polls show a majority of Oregonians supporting the measure, which would regulate, legalize and tax marijuana in a way that's similar to the system for beer and wine, but more restrictive.
In Colorado, since the marijuana industry became legalized and regulated, use among teenagers has dropped and traffic fatalities have declined, according to Colorado state data compiled by Forbes Magazine. But in Oregon, seven percent of all arrests and citations are for simple marijuana possession, according to The Oregonian, giving the state one of the highest marijuana arrest rates in the country.
Measure 91 would regulate marijuana sales and possession at all levels; legalize use for adults 21 and older; and generate tens of millions in tax revenue for schools, police, drug treatment, drug prevention and mental health programs. More information: VoteYesOn91.com.
"Measure 91 is expected to generate tens of millions of additional tax revenue every year," said chief petitioner Anthony Johnson, "with a quarter of the revenue going to drug treatment, prevention and mental health programs. That makes more sense than putting all the money into the criminal market."
Q & A with Richard Harris
Harris has worked in drug treatment and prevention for more than 30 years. As the former director of the Addictions and Mental Health Services in Oregon, he held the highest position in the state for directing drug treatment and addiction programs. He is also a founder and the former director of Central City Concern, which runs one of Oregon's largest health and recovery programs.
Why are you supporting Measure 91? We've been treating marijuana as a crime for decades. The numbers make it clear, that approach isn't working. Measure 91 is a better way forward. It will safely regulate marijuana and possession at all levels, generate millions in tax revenue and improve our state.
What's wrong with our current approach to marijuana? Criminalizing marijuana is much more destructive than using it. The criminal sanctions split families, take jobs, ruin homes, cost taxpayers too much money and put people in jail, where they learn how to commit real crimes. The current approach doesn't solve the problem for people who have real drug addictions and and dependencies.
Some people say we should focus on reducing the
availability of marijuana. Trying to keep marijuana out of people's hands simply doesn't work. The war against marijuana is distracting police from dealing with more important issues, like stopping violent crimes, and taking money away from what we know works with people who have drug problems -- drug education, prevention and treatment.
What do you like about Measure 91? Measure 9 deals with marijuana in a rational way, and we need the right restrictions put into place. Measure 91 controls marijuana from seed to sale; penalizes access by minors; keeps current laws against driving while impaired; keeps drug-free workplace rules, and prevents public use. The state would treat marijuana in much the same way it treats alcohol.
How is Measure 91 an improvement over our current approach? Under Measure 91, the state would regulate and control marijuana and it would generate millions of tax money for drug treatment, mental health and prevention programs. Did you know that right now there is no state appropriated money in Oregon for drug and alcohol prevention programs? Measure 91 would fix that, improving access to both drug treatment and drug prevention services.
Where is the money for drug prevention coming from? The state of Oregon appropriates zero money for drug abuse, including no money for marijuana prevention programs for youth. The limited amount of drug prevention money comes from the federal government, from local money from city or county governments and from fundraising through nonprofit programs. But under Measure 91, there would be new state funding for marijuana prevention, just as it has been the case in Washington state.
What has Oregon learned from its past in terms of how it used to deal with alcohol? What a lot of people don't know is that in many states it was a crime to be publicly intoxicated in Oregon. Up until the 1970s, people were taken to the city jail for being drunk. They received no treatment, addicts lost their families and hundreds of drunks were wandering the street during the day. Then, in 1971, Oregon became the second state to decriminalize public intoxication. A tax on beer and wine went into treatment and recovery programs. The results were dramatic. What we see today in public alcohol intoxication is a twentieth of what it used to be. What changed is that we shifted from criminalizing alcoholism to providing treatment for it. The same thing can work for marijuana.