Now that Oregon's legalization is officially Initiative 91 on the November ballot, Clatsop County District Attorney Josh Marquis has taken to the media to offer reasons to vote against ending adult marijuana prohibition.
"There's going to be a huge trickle down to youth," Marquis told The Oregonian. "Would you want your kids...while they are learning, to be affected by a powerful drug?"
Youth have marijuana access now. For three decades, the Youth Risk Behavior Surveys (YRBS) and the Center for Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) have found between 80% and 90% of teens find pot "fairly easy" or "very easy" to access. Are we to believe that we'll top that rate when marijuana is sold in adults-only stores where IDs are checked and the profit in black market dealing plummets? CASA also found that 44% of kids know a drug dealer in school and 91% of the time, marijuana's on the menu, compared to 6% for cigarettes and 1% for alcohol. It's not that kids don't smoke and drink; it's that there's no profit in Camels and Budweiser.
Marquis believes increased use and acceptance of marijuana will also inevitably lead to more intoxicated driving, despite both Washington and Colorado showing fewer driving fatalities since they passed legalization. Marquis even accepts that stoned drivers aren't more dangerous than drunk drivers, but worries that it's harder to measure intoxication among marijuana users.
But marijuana and cars exist now. Is Marquis telling us in his entire career he's never been able to secure a stoned driving conviction? Or is he complaining that lack of an unscientific "magic number" DUID standard makes his job harder?
Marquis knows full well that marijuana exists now and argues that medical marijuana and decriminalization make legalization unnecessary. "Marijuana," he said, "is already functionally available to almost any adult that wants it in Oregon."
That may be true, but the consumer enjoying decriminalized pot still has to support a criminal grower, criminal trafficker, and criminal seller to get it. The patient treating illness with medical cannabis still has to endure the high prices, instability, and burglary risk borne of criminal growing, trafficking, and selling of pot.
Marquis concludes by saying the example of failed Alcohol Prohibition isn't relevant to the marijuana legalization debate. "Marijuana has not been accepted in America," said Marquis. "It has been gradually more tolerated." He even expressed that he'd happily eliminate alcohol and tobacco if he could, but he said that's not practical.
That last sentence tells you all you need to know about Josh Marquis. He'd happily slap the cuffs on you for drinking wine and smoking a cigar if only it weren't impractical. It's only so impractical because so many people already accept it in our culture. Just like any practical war, we wage it against a culture small and impotent enough to defeat.
The problem for Josh Marquis is he's seriously underestimated the size of our culture. According to the most recent National Survey on Drug Use & Health state data, among Oregonians aged 21 and older, 15.5% of us toke annually, 11.1% of us toke monthly, and 3.8% of us toke near daily. That's 436,000 occasional, 314,000 moderate, and 108,000 regular adult customers ready to fight for acceptance, not just tolerance.