The Austin Chronicle

Weed Watch: Czar Stumps to Save Oregon

By Jordan Smith, October 1, 2004, News

As the election draws ever closer, federal drug czar John Walters is kicking it into high gear, taking his drugs-are-the-devil stump speeches to Oregon in an attempt to squash the state's second medical marijuana-related ballot measure, which seeks to augment the medi-pot law passed there in 1998. Walters' stumping was successful in Nevada in 2002, where the czar preached against a voter decriminalization initiative – while skirting Silver State election law, which requires the filing of campaign expenditure reports.

This year's Oregon ballot measure asks voters to decide whether to create state-run marijuana dispensaries, increase legal medi-pot possession to 1 lb. and 10 plants per patient, and to add nurse practitioners and naturopathic physicians to the medi-pot law definition of "attending medical personnel" who can qualify medi-mari patients. The provisions of the so-called Oregon Medical Marijuana Act II would add to provisions already passed into law by voters in 1998. Not surprisingly, Walters isn't jiggy with the idea. On Sept. 10, he swung into action during an interview with the Associated Press, spinning his usual overstated rhetoric and claiming that passage of OMMA2 would make Oregon a "safe haven for drug trafficking," the Drug Reform Coordination Network reports.

Indeed, Walters trotted out the feds' favorite proclamation that the whole notion of medical marijuana is nothing more than a sham, telling the AP that the Oregon proposition is tantamount to a voter fraud, perpetrated by dastardly drug reformers. "People are being played for suckers," he said. "Their compassion for sick people is being used to do something that's destructive for the state."

Activist John Sajo of Voter Power, the group sponsoring OMMA2, told the DRCNet that opponents are wrong. "Our opponents don't have any good arguments against medical marijuana, so they call this a legalization measure," he said. "That is nonsense."

In other marijuana-related news, NORML reports that Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley has given his approval to a plan to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana within the Windy City. The decrim proposal, which would make possession of up to 30 grams of pot punishable by a fine not to exceed $1,000, was floated by a Chicago police sergeant who estimated that the measure would generate nearly $5 million per year in city revenue. Currently, 12 states have decriminalized dope possession – including Alaska, where possession of up to four ounces is legal. Daley said that enforcing criminal penalties for minor pot possession is a burden on city taxpayers, which wastes police time and resources – NORML reports that charges are eventually dismissed in a majority of the approximately 15,000 possession arrests made in Chicago each year.

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