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The Sky Isn't Falling 

Legal weed fears fade post prohibition


Breaking news: The sky is not falling. Now that we are three months into cannabis legalization and a week into legal sales of cannabis in Oregon, this is a message that the Oregon public needs to hear. Both before and after Oregonians voted on Measure 91, we have heard the same tired arguments from prohibitionists about how legal recreational cannabis would have huge negative impacts on Oregon, everything from carnage on the roads to children becoming drug addicts.

But ignorance and irrational fear persist about cannabis, even in communities where people are fairly well-educated. Recently, a member of the City's Marijuana Technical Advisory Committee, in advocating for spacing requirements on cannabis businesses, was quoted as saying that she did not want clustered cannabis businesses to create "a red-light district" in Bend.

But this fear is unfounded. Consider that breweries, which have no spacing restrictions in Bend, have not already created a red-light district; and that neither bars, breweries, nor cannabis stores have clustered around Bend's existing red-light district over on south Third Street, which consists of a mediocre strip club and an adult video arcade (the only such businesses in all of Central Oregon).

Despite the fact that the majority of medical marijuana dispensaries statewide are now selling recreational cannabis, and despite lines out the doors of cannabis stores at midnight and later in the day on October 1 here in Bend, all of Bend is not stoned. At least we don't seem to be more stoned than usual, and neither does the rest of the state.

Perhaps more importantly, grandma is not hocking her TV to buy a dime bag. Stores are not selling bongs to children. Stoned drivers are not plowing into pedestrians. Rowdy crowds of adults are not handing out joints at local daycare centers. Tweakers are not robbing pot shops. That deafening silence you hear is legalization working pretty much exactly as the proponents of Measure 91 said it would.

Apparently, this is surprising to a lot of people. Fortunately, those people are now a shrinking minority in Oregon. But it bears repeating: They were wrong about the impacts of cannabis legalization. Sure, only time will tell whether Measure 91 will really destroy the black market for cannabis in Oregon. And more time is needed to fully assess possible long-term impacts from legalization.

But now that we are dealing with first-hand facts rather than fear mongering, there really is no reason to believe that these problems will magically materialize. In the parlance of our times, cannabis legalization and sales is a big nothing burger. And if you want to know what things will be like in a year or two, I suggest a trip to Denver or Seattle. The sky has not fallen there either.

Denver, for example, is basically a cannabis utopia. Cannabis stores are common throughout the city, they are patronized regularly, and life is proceeding pretty much as it did before those stores existed—except without all of the downsides of a thriving black market. And with a whole new industry that is giving Colorado schools an immense amount of money.

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