Pot vs. booze: Marijuana was in the news this week – when is it not in the news these days? – for a number of reasons, including the continuing effort to implement Measure 91 in Oregon and the official start of legalization in Alaska and Washington, D.C. Perhaps the most interesting bit of news, and certainly the most reassuring to legalization advocates, involved recently published research indicating that pot really isn’t that dangerous.
A paper appearing in Scientific Reports reaffirms earlier studies indicating that such commonly used and legal drugs as alcohol and nicotine are far, far more dangerous than pot, The Washington Post reported. The study devised a risk assessment by comparing the typical dosage of various drugs with their lethal dosages. The gap was relatively small for alcohol, nicotine, cocaine and heroin, but enormous for pot. To kill yourself with weed, you’d have to smoke Seth Rogen’s entire grow room during a single episode of Spongebob Squarepants.
OK, that’s a slight exaggeration, but you get the idea. The study’s authors emphasize that, except for alcohol and nicotine, data on the long-term effects of the drugs included are scarce, which “is specifically relevant for compounds with low acute toxicity (such as cannabis).” Nonetheless, marijuana compares so favorably to alcohol and nicotine on the likely-to-kill-you scale that the report’s authors suggest “a strict legal regulatory approach rather than the current prohibition approach” prevailing in most places.
Implementing Measure 91, which legalized the recreational sale and use of marijuana, will take some time and involve the resolution of some knotty questions – how to regulate edibles, for instance. But approving it, as Oregonians did last fall, was the right thing.
Dem. shows low-carbon courage: An editorial in Thursday’s Oregonian asked half a dozen Democrats representing relatively competitive House districts how they planned to vote on Senate Bill 324, which would remove the 2015 sunset date on a low-carbon fuel program that’s expected to raise fuel costs up to 19 cents per gallon without having any discernible effect on global temperatures. Only one, Betty Komp of Woodburn, bothered to respond.
In addition to those six, we also emailed Democrat Brad Witt of Clatskanie, who enjoys a slightly larger voter-registration cushion. Witt responded at length, noting that though he was “the legislator that cleared the way for the passage of the original Clean Fuels Bill in 2009” he believes SB324 “has too many shortcomings to allow it to become law.”
Among these shortcomings?
“For the past four years, I have been assured by proponents of SB324 that an effective and timely means of abating excessive fuel cost increases caused by the legislation would be developed,” he wrote. “Four years later, that has yet to occur …”
Comparing the program to the disaster known as the Business Energy Tax Credit, Witt proposes “to extend the sunset on the Clean Fuels Program in order to design a program that actually works.”
It’s encouraging to hear a member of the majority party acknowledge that this ineffective and potentially expensive program might not be so great after all. Instead of extending the sunset, however, why not kill it entirely?
Portland ‘stewardship’: Because the long-running debate over the low-carbon fuel standard has seen everything else, it was inevitable that the Portland City Council would wade in at some point. And it has, in the form of a letter – signed by all five commissioners – submitted to Senate and House committees this month in support of SB324.
In addition to urging implementation of the standard, which will raise the cost of driving without spending a penny of it on roads, the commissioners indulged in a bit of preening about their role as “leaders and public stewards” and emphasized the city’s commitment to “addressing climate change through its own operations, infrastructure, and citywide policy.”
Did someone say “infrastructure?”
Using money that normally would be spent on roads for something else entirely – alternative fuels, the Portland Streetcar, whatever – isn’t a completely foreign concept in Portland, where pavement is in notoriously bad condition in part because commissioners for years did just that. Such is the effect on basic infrastructure of Portland-style public stewardship.
The Council’s frenzied search for new taxes and fees to fix up roads, begun early last year, has paused, but is certain to resume when the legislative session concludes. At that point, commissioners who’ve supported a state program that would raise fuel costs without spending any of the money on roads will, once again, propose to squeeze Portlanders to make up for years in which local road money was spent on other stuff.
No wonder some commissioners don’t want the funding mechanism to face a public vote.