Op-Ed Commentary by, E. Werner Reschke, Oregon State Representative House District 56
You probably have been told about the wonderful things that could happen in Klamath Falls if the people would vote to “lift the ban” on the recreational retail sale of marijuana. At first blush, the idea may actually sound good — expanding liberty (letting people choose for themselves) and adding revenue to our budget-strapped schools and law enforcement. However, retail marijuana is a short-term band-aid to address serious budgeting issues.
Before lifting this ban, be sure to understand all the facts, costs and consequences.
First, if marijuana is made more readily available through legalized retail locations in Klamath Falls, will marijuana use increase or decrease? The answer is obvious: marijuana use in Klamath Falls will increase. This also includes an unhealthy increase by underage teenagers and children. Such an unhealthy increase risks a decline in graduation rates and is not helpful in building a more vibrant and resilient community.
Second, the money generated by legalizing marijuana is minimal. $85 million in 2017 and a similar amount is estimated for 2018 — that’s for the entire state. By the time that pot up is divided up among local governments and state agencies it quickly becomes a trickle for Klamath Falls. Funding issues for public education and law enforcement cannot be solved by approving recreational retail marijuana shops. A better solution is to elect statewide officials who are willing to roll up their selves and reform the state employee retirement system (PERS) for future retirees — a system that continues to gobble up every state agency’s budget at an alarming rate. As a pubic official, I am committed to addressing the real problems. I am hopeful the election in November will bring a change to the balance of power in Salem so we can enact real solutions to issues such as PERS, Healthcare, Education and Transportation. Short-term band-aides to state agency budgets — like lifting the ban on recreational retail marijuana sales — may appear nice on the surface but do not address the fundamental problems.
Finally, the data shows several Oregon municipalities that have lifted the ban on recreational retail marijuana sales have less safer communities. For example, data from 2010 (before marijuana legalization) to 2017 (after legalization) shows DUII’s increased over 50% in Salem where retail sales are allowed. Likewise in Bend where recreational retail sales of marijuana is legal, DUII's are up almost 10%. These dangerous increases are against the backdrop of DUII's decreasing nearly 30% statewide during the same time period.
All good decisions are made by weighing the costs vs. benefits. Many people who advocate for lifting the ban either personally profit or use marijuana now. However, when deciding on public policy, a decision that will effect everyone, careful consideration should be taken to include the entire community.
Klamath Falls residents have an important decision to make this November. I believe the safe and healthy decision is obvious. Let’s have sober minds prevail and vote NO on Measure 18-112.
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