Law Enforcement Support Oregon’s Marijuana Legalization Initiative

OREGON—(ENEWSPF)—October 27, 2014. The Sheriff of King County, which includes the greater Seattle area, is making news by endorsing Oregon’s marijuana regulation measure.

King County Sheriff John Urquhart supported Washington state’s successful 2012 initiative to regulate marijuana, and he said he supports Oregon’s Measure 91 because Washington state’s regulated approach to marijuana is working. Below is his op-ed in the Oregonian.

Below is also a Washington Post story on Pete Tutmark, a former patrol sergeant and sheriff’s deputy who is featured in the Yes on 91 TV ads in support of marijuana legalization.

And finally, Kris Olson, the top federal prosecutor for Oregon during the Clinton administration, has also endorsed the ballot measure for legalization.


Legalizing Marijuana Will Boost Public Safety, By Sheriff John Urquhart, October 25, 2014

When it comes to marijuana, there are a few things we can all probably agree on. No one wants minors using marijuana. No one wants impaired drivers on the road. No one wants the drug cartels or other criminals to profit. While it may seem counterintuitive, legalizing and regulating marijuana can address all of these problems and more.

As sheriff of the largest jurisdiction in the country that has legalized marijuana, I have experience with both the regulated and the criminal market system for marijuana. I know which system works better. And like a growing number of people in law enforcement, I support a regulated approach, because it’s a more efficient and effective system for controlling marijuana.

For more than a decade, I was a narcotics detective and witnessed firsthand the failure of the “War on Drugs” and the futility of trying to arrest our way out of it. As a society, we’ve spent more than $1 trillion and countless hours of police, prosecutor, judge and court staff time, but we have not significantly reduced demand for marijuana. Worse, we have incarcerated generations of individuals (resulting in the highest incarceration rate in the world) and created a system of criminalization and stigmatization that ruins lives — all due to a substance that is considered less damaging than alcohol or tobacco.

The negative repercussions from this failed drug policy are staggering. Consider how much time and money is being thrown away in Oregon. According to the Washington Post, one out of every 14 arrests and citations in Oregon (or about 7 percent) are for marijuana. The Oregon Annual Uniform Crime Report estimates that a marijuana arrest or citation is made every 39 minutes (99,000 in the past decade). In 2010 alone, more than $50 million of your taxpayer money was spent enforcing marijuana possession laws. And these aren’t all hardened criminals wreaking havoc on communities. An analysis by the American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon, Oregon State Police data found that 90 percent of the marijuana possession incidents in 2010 involved less than one ounce.

These numbers and expenditures simply do not make sense. It is time for smarter, safer drug laws that control the use of marijuana, while also protecting children and communities, generating revenue for important public needs and freeing up time and resources for law enforcement officials to focus on serious crimes. All of this can be achieved through Measure 91 in Oregon, just as it is through similar policies elsewhere.

In Washington and Colorado, we’re already seeing the widespread benefits of regulating marijuana as we separate consumers from gangs and divert the proceeds from the sale of marijuana toward furthering the goals of public safety. In both states, revenue is up and crime is down. In Washington, court filings regarding marijuana possession have plummeted from 5,531 in 2012 to only 120 in 2013; and economists are projecting $51 million in tax revenue in the 2015-2017 biennium. In Colorado, the state has received more than $27.2 million in taxes, licenses and fees in the first four months of legalization with $1.9 million being distributed to state programs in March alone.

With these kinds of results, it should come as no surprise that an increasing number of law enforcement officials support the legalization and regulation of marijuana. Yet, their voices often go unheard as they are bound by their legal obligations to enforce the current law (despite the fact that it’s failing) and can’t come forward in public forums.

Today, I’m speaking from experience and I’m speaking on their behalf. I supported the Washington measure to regulate marijuana and I support Measure 91 in Oregon because no officers anywhere should have to spend their valuable time on petty marijuana arrests instead of more serious law enforcement priorities. As a society, our time and our money could be put to better use. As citizens, we deserve policies that truly protect and serve the greater good.

John Urquhart is the sheriff of King County, Wash.

Washington Post

A 33-year police veteran stars in Oregon’s new $2M marijuana legalization ad campaign, Niraj Chokshi, October 2, 2014

Marijuana legalization advocates in Oregon have launched a $2 million-plus ad campaign starring a 33-year police veteran.

The new ad, embedded below, features Pete Tutmark, a former patrol sergeant and sheriff’s deputy. Tutmark criticizes what he calls a “broken” system that diverts resources from important crime-solving to drug arrests and urges his fellow Oregonians to vote yes on measure 91 this fall, which would legalize and regulate recreational marijuana use.

“Last year in Oregon, there were 13,000 citations and arrests for marijuana,” he says in the ad. “That takes time, time better spent solving murders, rape cases, finding missing children. The system’s broken.”

The ad, called “It’s About Time,” began running on Wednesday and was scheduled to air during the newscasts of several local TV stations, including affiliates of every major broadcast network. It is the first ad aired on broadcast and cable TV by the Yes on 91 campaign, which has also received endorsements from retired chief federal prosecutor Kris Olson and retired Oregon Supreme Court justice Bill Riggs. Earlier online ads featured several Oregonians, including Richard Harris, a former director of Addiction and Mental Health Services.

A poll last week of nearly 700 registered Oregonian voters found that roughly 44 percent support the legalization measure, while 40 percent oppose it. That “narrowest and most unreliable of margins,” as pollster SurveyUSA described it, represented a narrowing from a June poll that found support winning 51 percent to 41 percent.

More than nine percent of all arrests in Oregon in 2012 were over marijuana, according to state statistics. Of the nearly 13,000 marijuana arrests, more than five in six were over possession for use as opposed to sale.


Former U.S. attorney for Oregon endorses marijuana legalization measure, Jeff Mapes, September 22, 2014

Kris Olson, the top federal prosecutor for Oregon during the Clinton administration, on Monday endorsed the ballot measure that would legalize recreational marijuana use in Oregon.

The former U.S. attorney is the latest establishment figure that proponents of Measure 91 have rolled out in their campaign this year.  Others include former Oregon Supreme Court Justice Bill Riggs and Richard Harris, a former top official of the state’s addictions and mental health services division.

Olson was quoted in a press release as saying:

“I enforced our marijuana laws, and they don’t work. Filling our courts and jails has failed to reduce marijuana use, and drug cartels are pocketing all the profits.”

Olson served as U.S. attorney from 1994 to 2001.  Olson has also worked as a federal prosecutor, taught at Lewis & Clark Law School and was a senior counsel to Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., from 2001 to 2003.  She became friends with Bill and Hillary Clinton at Yale Law School in the early 1970s.