OREGON: Phil Barnhart could talk all day in favor of legalizing marijuana and not face many political consequences. The Oregon Democratic lawmaker represents Eugene, after all, one of the more liberal and weed-friendly cities in Oregon.
But don’t let Barnhart’s home address fool you. He favors a conservative approach to changing drug laws, and he makes a persuasive case that the Legislature should refer a legalization measure to voters rather than let pot activists run the show.
“I’m a 67-year-old grandfather,” he said Friday, speaking from Eugene. “I have a very different perspective than I might have had 45 years ago. … I think if we leave it to the advocates, we will regret it.”
He’s right. Oregon lawmakers can’t just sit around and hope for the perpetual failure of ballot initiatives cooked up by Paul Stanford and other hard-core activists with financial or political agendas. They need to set the terms, or they will spend years trying to clean up the mess of a bad initiative.
The U.S. Department of Justice recently said it wouldn’t challenge voter-approved laws in Washington and Colorado that legalize the recreational use of marijuana. It also laid out its enforcement priorities in a way that gave an immediate boost to legalization campaigns in Oregon and elsewhere.