On Friday, Clatsop County DA Josh Marquis, the leading spokesperson for law enforcement's opposition to marijuana legalization, debated Rep. Earl Blumenauer about Oregon's Measure 91 at the Salem City Club (fast-forward to 20:00 to skip intros):
Throughout the debate, Marquis tried to minimize the need for legalization by repeatedly referencing Oregon's current marijuana decriminalization of possessing less than an ounce of marijuana.
Marquis, who has become a leading spokesman of the opposition campaign, said Oregon already showed how to deal with marijuana in 1973 when it became the first state to decriminalize possession of less than an ounce of the drug.
As a result, Marquis noted, most law enforcement actions against marijuana users are noncriminal citations equivalent to a speeding ticket.
"You didn't get a free ride in a police car. You didn't have a criminal record," Marquis said. "That's what less than an ounce of marijuana is in Oregon."
He characterized this issuing of tickets for pot possession as costing taxpayers "zero", as if counties printing tickets, cops' time writing them, and courts' time collecting them are free. It's all part of his attempt to deflate proponents' claims that marijuana prohibition negatively affects average cannabis consumers; Marquis also likes to say that "anyone can get a medical marijuana card in Oregon" and that one would have to go out of their way to actually get a marijuana ticket.
So I felt that this recent comment from a listener of mine was apropos to share:
I hate when they try to use the decriminalization argument because i believed it until this happened. IT IS NOT the same in Oregon to get a parking ticket vs. a pot ticket for having less than an ounce. We got pulled over and as a passenger i had an 1/8 of weed in my purse that the officer could just smell and asked for it. So not only did i have to give up my weed, i also got a ticket for a $1,000 and a court date. I could either choose jail time, or they could took it down to $500 or go through a drug class and pay the courts $100 and then $50 for the class AND be on bench probation for 6 months. Thank goodness we just had that money because I know a lot of other people who don't have extra money like that. I also had to take two days off from work to go back to forest grove, a couple hours away from where we live, pay for gas, to first go to court and then go to this class where the teacher pretty much laughed that I, a 31 year old at the time, had to go to this class to mostly learn about alcohol. That is a whole lot more than just paying a parking ticket. So until it is legal it is not actually decriminalized.