East Oregonian : E.O. (Pendleton, OR) 1888-current, January 06, 2018, WEEKEND EDITION, Page Page 4A, Image 4

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    Page 4A
East Oregonian
Saturday, January 6, 2018
Managing Editor
Opinion Page Editor
Founded October 16, 1875
Measure 101 a Band-Aid on a gaping wound
The one-issue ballot that arrived in
your mailbox earlier this week, and the
complicated question therein, is proof
that something is rotten in the state of
It’s a confusing, complicated decision
that asks a lot — too much, we’d
argue — of voters. The voters’ pamphlet
(again, all that for just one question)
includes arguments in favor and in
opposition that are often too thick to
In short, Oregonians are asked to
decide the fate of a two-year, 0.7 percent
tax on some hospitals that was approved
by the Legislature in the last session. A
1.5 percent tax also extends to insurers,
the Public Employees Benefits Board
and coordinated care organizations.
Voting “yes” keeps the taxes; voting
“no” repeals them.
If the tax is repealed, the state would
lose anywhere from $210 million to
$330 million in revenue, in addition to
$630 million to more than $1 billion
in federal Medicaid matching funds.
Proponents say as many as 350,000
low-income residents could lose health
insurance, while opponents say the state
could find other ways to cover them
(though they haven’t been able to clearly
identify any).
There is a lot at stake, but voters have
a right to feel like legislators — and
initiative proponents — have put them
in a vise.
One jaw of the vise is the fact that we
know access to health care for people
who cannot afford their own insurance
comes at a cost. The cost is on those
who can afford it — they pay a little
extra to cover those who cannot.
Supporting the sick and suffering is
something that many believe is a moral
and financial obligation. And the fiscal
conservatives among us also understand
that the obligation is lessened if we
pay a little bit up front (in the form
of insurance) instead of a lot more in
the end (loss of societal production,
emergency room visits, delayed care,
and avoidable suffering and deaths).
Yet there is pressure from the other
side of the vise, too.
Measure 101 isn’t fair — not
everyone in the state pays equally.
People covered by self-insured medical
plans through their employer (the
East Oregonian, for one) and unions
are exempt, among others. Small
businesses, school districts, nonprofits
and college students aren’t. Shouldn’t
everyone bear the burden of supporting
the neediest in our society? The insurers
and hospitals are likely to push their
costs onto customers, many of whom
count the high cost of health care as one
of the biggest challenges in their lives.
Fiscal conservatives are also justified
in feeling that the Legislature is holding
the state’s most vulnerable residents
hostage in its thirst for ever-increasing
taxes. Who is going to argue against
medical coverage for sick kids? But
why weren’t deeper cuts made in other
programs to offset this expense?
That’s the pattern of the Legislature.
As long as powerful interests — such
as the public sector employee unions
— carve out their pieces of the pie,
solutions to complex problems such
as health care will continue to be
unevenly applied. And applied poorly,
like a two-year Band-Aid over an open
And this is a Band-Aid — a
temporary solution that does real good.
It will make many Oregonians healthier
and less financially stressed. But it does
mask the deeper issues beneath.
Yet at the same time, we’re not
comfortable with complex legislation
being picked apart by the initiative
process. We live in a representative
democracy, and we elected our
representatives to run our state — to
make laws, make sure the bills are paid
and the right investments made.
The initiative process is an excellent
way to decide on easily understood
social issues like same-sex marriage or
marijuana legalization. But complicated
tax policy should not be nit-picked
this way, and repealing these taxes
would set a bad precedent. Business
and the government both need stability
in revenue and expenditure in order to
make decisions and plan for the future
— the rug cannot be pulled out from
underneath either at a moment’s notice.
We sent our legislators to Salem to
do a job and this is the job they did. If
we don’t like it (and we don’t), then we
should vote them out. Until such time,
voters should approve Measure 101.
In recent years, we’ve seen the
number of insured Oregonians increase
dramatically in the state. And with the
help of coordinated care organizations,
we’ve seen health outcomes improve,
too. The opioid epidemic is lapping at
these gains, however, and we cannot be
Assessing that situation, a Band-Aid
is better than pushing a still recovering
patient back into the street.
Department of injustice
fter foraging through
It’s not just that 71
the dumpster of
percent of Americans
discarded ideas, the
oppose federal government
Trump administration has
efforts to stop marijuana
dragged out another fetid
sales, but an equally large
reject as part of its campaign
majority thinks overall drug
to roll back modernity,
abuse should be treated as
common sense and the will
an addiction and mental
of the people.
Timothy health problem, rather than
We know that Attorney
a criminal offense. The
General Jeff Sessions is a
consensus crosses class
small, backward-looking
lines and the racial divide,
man with even smaller,
even if enforcement of drug
more backward-looking ideas, but
laws does not.
what was the thinking behind his
And yet, after the government
new federal crackdown on legal
spent more than $1 trillion over the
marijuana? Punish the blue states?
past four decades on the failed drug
Create cannabis chaos in the large
war, Trump now wants to double
swath of the American West and the down on the most failed aspect of
other states where voters have said
modern prohibition.
they want police to spend their time
According to the most recent
on real crime?
statistics, more than 1 million
Or is it just another betrayal
people a year are arrested for
of the fools who voted for a man
simple drug possession in the
aptly described from inside the
United States — and more than half
White House in Michael Wolff’s
a million of those arrests are for
new book, as “less a person than
marijuana possession.
a collection of terrible traits”? For
More people are arrested for pot
one way to really tick off Trump’s
possession than all the crimes that
base is to start arresting them.
the FBI classifies as violent — one
There comes a time in the
arrest every minute. This at a time
evolution of social policy when
when only 14 percent of the people
law enforcement, science, medical think marijuana should be illegal.
authorities and the majority of
The voters have spoken on this,
the public reach a consensus
in the 29 states and the District of
about changing course. At this
Columbia where marijuana use is
moment, criminalizing marijuana
legalized in some form.
has never been more unpopular,
I live in one of those states,
nor a more unjust way to ensure
Washington, a pioneer in
that otherwise law-abiding people prohibition rollback. What you
have to fear police.
hear most from people, confirmed
by studies, is that state-regulated
pot retailing has turned out to
be no big deal. Legalization did
not significantly increase youth
drug abuse, or increase impaired
driving. But it’s brought in nearly
half a billion dollars in tax revenue
just in Colorado.
It’s neither a panacea nor an
open door to abuse. It’s just the
obvious thing to do — a big duh,
acknowledging the private right of
a freedom-loving people.
The real problem, as any sentient
public servant can tell you, is opioid
abuse. Overdoses from prescription
opioids have quadrupled since 1999
— as have sales. Almost 200,000
Americans have died since 1999
from taking a lethal dose of drugs
pushed by the major pharmaceutical
companies. Only the Civil War and
World War II had higher fatalities.
And here’s where it gets
particularly crazy. Big Pharma,
the one drug dealer the Justice
Department should be throwing all
its resources at, has been trying to
limit marijuana legalization efforts.
It doesn’t want the competition
from a natural palliative that is
infinitely safer than the drugs sold
from your neighborhood CVS, or
alcohol for that matter.
Among the efforts: Insys
Therapeutics, a company whose
former executives have been
charged with conspiracy to bribe
doctors to prescribe more of their
product, gave $500,000 in 2016 to
defeat Arizona pot legalization.
In announcing the throwback
to a discredited policy Thursday,
Sessions described the effort as a
“return to the rule of law.” It’s a
return to insanity, and to creating
more outlaws. From here on, federal
prosecutors will have discretion to
attack small-business owners selling
a product deemed legal by their
state. Weren’t Republicans supposed
to be champions of states’ rights?
The Justice Department
“has trampled on the will of the
voters,” said Sen. Cory Gardner
of Colorado, a Republican in a
state full of independent voters.
Sessions had promised, before
his confirmation, not to go after
the legal marijuana industry, said
Gardner. Trump did the same.
“I think it’s up to the states,”
Trump said during the presidential
campaign. “I am a states person.”
While Trump gorges himself
on the twin health risks of junk
food and Fox News alone in his
bed at the White House, Sessions
is now free to pursue an archaic
moral crusade. He calls marijuana
a “gateway drug,” a substance
that is only “slightly less awful”
than heroin.
As arrests mount once again, as
the black market bounces back, as
vital police resources are wasted,
Trump’s new era of prohibition will
have the same effect as that of the
old Prohibition: to make criminals
of nonviolent citizens, and cynics of
the law.
Timothy Egan worked for 18
years as a writer for The New York
Times, first as the Pacific Northwest
correspondent, then as a national
enterprise reporter.
Local marijuana stores not
falling for Sessions’ threat
Attorney General Jeff Sessions has
decided to rescind the Cole Memorandum.
After hemming and hawing over the decision
for nearly a year, he chooses to do it just
days after California, a U.S. state with the
sixth largest GDP on Earth, goes legal with
recreational cannabis. A little late now pal.
Many people have become concerned and the
media has exploded with more speculation.
As a cannabis business owner, I do not
find this alarming. The majority of Americans
support full legalization of cannabis. Many
congressmen have been actively lobbying for
ending prohibition. Voters are saying yes to
Unsigned editorials are the opinion of the
East Oregonian editorial board. Other
columns, letters and cartoons on this page
express the opinions of the authors and
not necessarily that of the East Oregonian.
both medical and recreational cannabis bills
that are introduced for a vote. State officials
are positioning themselves in defense of
regulatory laws enacted in their states. This
shows me that we are winning.
What this also shows me is that Attorney
General Jeff Sessions no longer wants tax
money paid to the federal government.
Business taxes from thousands of cannabis
businesses are being paid to the federal
government — not to mention employment
taxes for the tens of thousands of cannabis
industry employees.
Sessions also no longer wants states to
tax cannabis sales and generate their own
revenue, thus reducing some of the need for
federal assistance.
Sessions no longer wants the
underemployed to have a new industry
grow and create thousands of new job
This shows me that he does not respect
the people, nor states rights — the same
as he doesn’t respect civil rights, women’s
rights, gender equality, voters rights, personal
liberties and most everything else.
Sessions no longer wishes to see a
reduction in opiate use when our country is
faced with a horrific opiate epidemic. Many
cannabis users find relief that is adequate
enough to reduce or even stop the use of
opiates for pain management.
AG Jeff Sessions doesn’t care about
the thousands of children who are medical
cannabis patients, gaining relief from
childhood conditions like cancer, epilepsy
and autism, among others. He doesn’t care
about the families that have a substandard
quality of life due to the medical costs of
these afflictions and the societal ostracization
from the stigma surrounding cannabis.
Decades of lies have been disproven, yet
this man continues his intolerant and bigoted
personal crusade against cannabis. He is
obviously terrified of change. It is time for
Sessions to be kind and embrace change,
because change will continue whether he
likes it or not.
At Kind Leaf it is business as usual.
Brandon Krenzler
The East Oregonian welcomes original letters of 400 words or less on public issues and public policies for publication in the
newspaper and on our website. The newspaper reserves the right to withhold letters that address concerns about individual
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