Others Say - 9/29/12
Marijuana plan a law enforcement nightmare
State Rep. Peter Buckley of Ashland last week came out in favor of Measure 80, framing it as establishing a neat system like Oregon Liquor Control Commission stores, only with marijuana.
Measure 80, which essentially legalizes marijuana in the state, is on the November ballot. And, indeed, it does call for the state to operate a chain of stores selling pot purchased from licensed, commercial growers.
But there’s a big difference between the OLCC system and the one that would be operated by an Oregon Cannabis Commission: People could still grow their own pot under Measure 80.
That’s like the OLCC allowing everyone to set up a still out back, while operating multiple stores for those who don’t care to make their own.
This paper has long advocated marijuana dispensaries as the way to control the drug and relieve police of the impossible job of monitoring thousands of medical marijuana grow sites. Unfortunately, the current problem of illegal sales will only grow, unless it’s illegal for people to grow their own. Under Measure 80, police would still have the time-consuming and expensive job of trying to determine who’s in compliance with the law.
Marijuana advocates keep insisting on putting the troublesome “grow your own” loophole in their initiatives. They included it two years ago in Measure 74, which would have set up a string of dispensaries to serve the state’s medical marijuana cardholders. Voters torched that measure 56 to 44 percent.
Under 80, adults are limited to growing enough pot for their “personal, noncommercial use.” Sales are illegal under the initiative, but it would be a law enforcement nightmare to catch any cheaters. There are already more than 24,000 registered growers in Oregon’s medical marijuana program. Imagine how many more there would be if people didn’t even have to go through the program to grow their own.
The temptation to grow more for sale would be tremendous, too, since marijuana would still be illegal in other states and thus a prized commodity. Last year, a Grants Pass man was charged with trying to sell pot for $3,000 a pound in Montana.
There is already so much marijuana flowing out of Oregon to other states that the federal government, which still considers the plant illegal, has raided large Southern Oregon operations the past two years. One occurred recently near Ruch.
Raids last year led to charges that six men were growing 4,000 pounds more than the patients they were growing for were entitled to.
Measure 80 also raises questions other than how to control illegal sales, such as how would the federal government feel about a state outright making pot legal? But the big concern is that “grow your own” loophole big enough to drive a truck full of pot through.
Wind power needs federal support
All it takes is a drive east on Interstate 84 past the Columbia River Gorge to appreciate the remarkable growth of wind energy in Oregon.
Wind turbines that barely existed a decade ago now speckle the horizon on either side of the Columbia. Wind companies have invested more than $4.5 billion in Oregon, generating 3,000 jobs, providing millions in tax revenues for state and local governments and helping ranchers, farmers and rural communities survive the Great Recession. Oregon ranks sixth nationally in production, generating 10.5 percent of its power from wind.
At the national level, wind energy supports 75,000 jobs, and the wind industry has invested billions — $14 billion in 2011 alone — in developing a supply chain in the United States.
But the industry has hit hard times. A story in last Thursday’s New York Times says 10,000 jobs have disappeared over the past four years as wind companies have been hit by a falling demand for power, competition from cheap domestic natural gas and huge subsidies by Asian countries that allow foreign competitors to underprice U.S. manufacturers.
Despite those setbacks, wind energy has made impressive gains. There remains a huge potential for industry growth as the U.S. economy continues its recovery and new energy technologies are developed.
But that potential is threatened by the possibility that Congress may allow a federal tax credit that makes wind power more competitive with other sources of electricity to expire at the end of this year.
That would be a mistake. While wind power has made major gains, it still needs time and federal assistance to catch up with the competition. At a time when Middle East oil is vulnerable to disruption and fossil fuels are key contributors to global warming, Congress should commit to the continued development of wind power.
Critics, including Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, argue that the wind industry has failed to produce a sufficient return for the taxpayer dollars that have been invested in it. Yet the federal production tax credit for wind has cut the cost of electricity from wind power to the point where it is often competitive with natural gas.
A sudden end to federal subsidies could reverse those gains — industry analysts warn of a 75 percent reduction in new investment and a hefty decline in jobs. The threat of ending the production tax credit has made project developers and manufacturers reluctant to make new investments.
There will come a time, perhaps in the not-too-distant future, when the federal government should step away from wind-energy subsidies. But that time has not yet arrived.
Secrecy for football injuries sends wrong message
College football coaches are famously myopic. So it is not surprising that much of the discussion over whether player injuries should be disclosed to the public has focused on whether it would give any team a competitive advantage.
The issue, as The Oregonian’s Paul Buker reported last week, has divided coaches in the Pacific-12 Conference. Oregon coach Chip Kelly guards the information; Oregon State coach Mike Riley is more open than most college coaches. Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott is on the right track when he suggests that the conference consider issuing weekly injury reports similar to the ones in the National Football League — and not because such a report would produce fairer competition.
The change that really needs to take place in regard to college football injuries is a change of focus. Interest in football injuries today extends far beyond die-hard fans who have an insatiable appetite for news and gamblers who covet information to help them predict who will win games. Taxpayers want to know if they are subsidizing dangerous activities. Parents want facts to help them decide whether to allow their children to play football.
Players have federally guaranteed privacy rights, which should be respected. But players often volunteer to discuss their injuries. And many injuries eventually become obvious when hobbled players show up on sidelines. Bottom line: Increased transparency about injuries and preserving players’ rights do not have to be mutually exclusive goals.
Coaches, players and everyone else associated with football-playing universities should favor increased transparency about injuries to preserve the viability of their sport.
Warning signs abound. More than 140 lawsuits have been filed around the country on behalf of 3,377 former NFL players, the Associated Press reported last week. Portland area youth football leagues are reporting decreased participation. Leagues at all levels of football made rule changes this year to try to increase safety and to assure the public that the health of players is a priority.
None of this means that football is going away anytime soon, or that those involved in the sport are ignoring the health of players. In fact, the NCAA and its member institutions keep detailed records on injuries.
Dr. Gregory Skaggs, director of athletic medicine at the University of Oregon, said trainers log all injuries at practices and games, every treatment and the number of practices and games missed by injured players. Other schools compile similar information, and many share the data with the NCAA. The NCAA uses the information to maintain an injury database, accessible to the public at www.ncaa.org.
But those efforts take place behind the scenes. When the most prominent and powerful people involved in college football — the coaches at high-profile programs — treat injuries as an un-discussable topic, it sends the wrong message.