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First take/Dear

It's unwise to jump to conclusions about why someone did something - as, in this case, the loner Robert Dear taking hostage and shooting up a Planned Parenthood location at Colorado Springs - but as details emerge, substantial conclusions become more reasonable. Little has been released by law enforcement in the case so far, and little has emerged directly from Dear about his motivations, other than a passing phrase about "no more baby parts."

But today the New York Times has released its examination into his background, talking with ex-wives and others who have known him over the years, tracing his path around the country. Some clear impressions start to emerge.

The Times writes, "He was a man of religious conviction who sinned openly, a man who craved both extreme solitude and near-constant female company, a man who successfully wooed women but, some of them say, also abused them. He frequented marijuana websites, then argued with other posters, often through heated religious screeds. “Turn to JESUS or burn in hell,” he wrote on one site on Oct. 7, 2005."

And, referring to an incident from several years ago, "A number of people who knew Mr. Dear said he was a staunch abortion opponent. Ms. Micheau, 60, said in a brief interview Tuesday that late in her marriage to Mr. Dear, he told her that he had put glue in the locks of a Planned Parenthood location in Charleston."

There were, in other words, a number of indicators that screws were loose - maybe just a couple of turns looser than is much more widespread. - rs

First take/pot stores

Tomorrow marijuana sales go legal in Oregon, and the location will be medical dispensary businesses licensed to sell to recreationalists as well. As it goes commercial, commercial labeling takes hold too. Here (from the official state list) are some favorite pot seller business names from around the state:

High Winds Cannabis, Hood River
bud4u, Mapleton and Florence
Pipe Dreams, Lincoln City
Meg's Marijuana, Springfield
Peace Love & Cannabis, Salem
Plane Jane's LLC, Portland
Cannabliss And Co., Eugene and Portland
The Grass Shack, Portland
Stoney Brothers LLC, Portland
Happy Leaf, Portland
Coastal Cannabinoids, Waldport

Too bad George Carlin isn't around to see this.

The 203 recreational stores (another 80 are medical only) range from the California to Washington borders, and some are scattered on the coast. As for what's easternmost, that would be one of the stores in Bend or Madras. - rs

First take

Yes, the survey was ordered by the group Marijuana Majority, but that doesn't mean it was badly done (the polling firm is reputable and has a good track record). And the results are striking; if the numbers seem, ahem, a little high, that doesn't mean they don't point in the correct direction. The issue was whether the federal government should leave states alone in developing their own policies toward weed, and the question was asked in two key states, Iowa and New Hampshire. (Which will be of interest since presidential candidates in those places are likely to be asked about this - and will need to bear in mind local attitudes.) Among Democrats, 80 percent in Iowa and 77 percent in New Hampshire favored federal laissez-fair. That may be no big surprise. Among respondents overall, 70 percent in Iowa, 73 percent in New Hampshire. But get this: Among Republicans, states rights on pot got 64% favorable in Iowa and 67% in New Hampshire. If that's anywhere near right, a bunch of Republican presidential candidates are about to have a serious choking moment. Maybe the Democratic candidates too. - rs (photo/sroalf)

Oregon’s sine die

The Oregon legislature, which normally runs longer than Washington's or Idaho's, has adjourned. (It was a little later than expected, but not by a lot.)

Here's what the House leadership cited as the session's accomplishments.

Investing in a Strong Education System

A $7.4 billion investment in public schools will provide stable budgets for most school districts while also funding full-day kindergarten for children throughout Oregon for the first time.
A $35 million investment in Career and Technical Education and Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math education (CTE/STEM) will help increase high school graduation rates and better prepare Oregon students for high-wage jobs.
Students seeking higher education will benefit from boosts in funding for public universities, community colleges, and student financial assistance (Opportunity Grants) – including a new tuition waiver program for qualified community college students and a requirement that public universities justify any proposed tuition increases above 3 percent in 2016-17.
New investments in early childhood education – notably Healthy Families home visiting, relief nurseries, and quality preschool – will help ensure children arrive at school ready to succeed.

Expanding Opportunities for Working Families

The Sick Leave for All Oregonians Act will make sure most working Oregonians can accrue a reasonable number of paid sick days each year – a basic workplace protection that will make a major difference for families across the state.
Oregon Retirement Savings Accounts will give more families the opportunity to save for retirement via an easy, effective, and portable savings account.
Prohibiting employer retaliation for discussing what you earn will help combat wage disparities and help women who currently do not get equal pay for equal work.
Strategic investments in the Employment Related Day Care Program and the Working Family Child and Dependent Care tax credit will increase access to quality, affordable childcare for working families.
A landmark investment in affordable housing construction will help thousands of families and begin to tackle Oregon’s statewide housing crisis.
Removing questions about criminal history from job applications, commonly known as “ban the box,” will help Oregonians get back on their feet once they have served their time.

Supporting Job Creation and Local Economies

A $175 million bonding investment will enable seismic upgrades to K-12 schools throughout the state, and an additional $125 million in bonds will help school districts across the state to fix outdated, dilapidated, and hazardous facilities.
A $90 million investment in Oregon’s transportation infrastructure will provide much-needed upgrades, including $35 million to improve the safety of some of the most deadly intersections and dangerous stretches of highway in communities across the state.
Strategic investments will create jobs and spur economic development across the state, including: investments in multimodal transportation through the ConnectOregon program; pivotal resources for community-based initiatives through the Regional Solutions program; and support for converting unusable brownfields such as abandoned gas stations into development-ready lots.
The implementation of Oregon’s Clean Fuels Program will provide Oregonians with more choices at the fuel pump, cleaner air to breathe, and more jobs in an emerging industry.
Rural economic investments include $50 million in grants and loans to help meet water storage and conservation needs, resources to improve sage grouse habitats and maintain grazing lands, and funds to manage and build a market for Western Juniper.
A fix to Oregon’s centralized property tax rules will provide certainty for technology companies that want to build data centers and create jobs in rural Oregon.

Improving Public Safety for Oregon Families

A package of common-sense regulations will guide a safe and successful implementation of the voter-approved Measure 91 to legalize recreational marijuana for adults.
The Oregon Firearms Safety Act will help keep convicted felons, domestic abusers and people in severe mental crisis from buying guns online or through other direct private sales because criminal background checks will now be required for those transactions.
Barring domestic abusers from possessing guns and ammunition will help protect victims and keep families safe.
Establishing long-needed rules to define and prohibit racial profiling will help rebuild public trust in local law enforcement and make communities stronger and safer.
Doubling the statute of limitations for first degree sex crimes from six years to twelve years will give victims a voice and a real chance to seek justice.
Improving the state’s capacity to respond to accidents involving trains carrying hazardous materials will make our communities safer.

Promoting Healthy Communities

Significant investments in mental health care and alcohol and drug treatment will strengthen communities throughout the state, including $20 million to build supportive housing for Oregonians impacted by mental illness or addiction.
Pharmacists will be allowed to prescribe and dispense birth control and insurance companies will be required to cover 12 months of prescription coverage – both of which will increase access to contraception and help reduce unintended pregnancies.
The Oregon Toxic Free Kids Act will require some manufacturers to incrementally phase out dangerous chemicals from kids’ products.
Cover Oregon has been abolished as a public corporation, which will add much-needed transparency and accountability to Oregon’s health insurance marketplace.
Vulnerable patients (victims of domestic violence, for example) will be able to keep their sensitive medical information private by having their “explanation of benefits” information mailed to an address that is different from the policy holder’s.

On the border


Across the border from Idaho, people are buying, selling and consuming marijuana – legally under state law.

As of July 1, the rules changed in Oregon to more or less throw the doors open, at least within a tax-and-regulate system.

If you think about the way Idahoans interact with their liquor sales system, you could draw a rough comparison, factoring in private businesses (not state stores) that can sell pot and some limitations on how much of it a single person or household can possess, or grow. But balanced out, the sense of the rules is not far from the level of regulation Idaho has for liquor; the Oregon argument called for legalizing, regulating and taxing it. (The Oregon agency charged with overseeing it is its state liquor control agency.)

The activity is likely to be thinner in the areas near Idaho, east of the Cascades, because a new state law made it a little easier for local cities and counties to limit or ban pot-related businesses (though not pot possession or use) locally. The provision applies to counties which opposed legalization, all of which are east of the Cascades. You can expect to see some headlines about whether Ontario and other border communities, for example, will allow pot shops within city limits.

That may soften the borderline effect a little, but it won’t do away with it.

The changes in Oregon mean, adding in the similar system in Washington state, the whole west side of Idaho now faces states where under state law – if not fully federal – the marijuana marketplace is largely open. There’s also Alaska, for good measure. And, of course, one state over, Colorado is the fourth state to approve full legalization. In each of these states, businesses are developing, local societies are adjusting and legal marijuana is becoming a billion-dollar industry.

That’s the recreation pot picture, but bear in mind that most western states now allow for medical uses. West of Texas and the Dakotas, all but three states (Idaho, Utah, Wyoming) have at least partial legalization. Nevada and Montana allow for medical use, and there’s a good chance one or both will move toward full legalization in the next election or two.

Idaho, Utah or Wyoming, of course, seem no more likely today to legalize than they ever have. What’s happening – and the change in Oregon last week emphasized it again – is that those three are becoming an island in the West.

To be clear, of course, that’s not the same thing as being an island in the nation. Across the Great Plains, the old South and the mid-Atlantic states, the rules on marijuana are mostly still unchanged. But the West (and the Northeast, and part of the Great Lakes area) have moved into a new regime, and in sharp contrast to a decade ago, Idaho is becoming part of the aberration.

This is of course just one issue, and most directly it affects only a minority of people – the number of legal pot users in the “legal states” surely will be limited, and the number of illegal users in the prohibition states even smaller. But the effects could be broader, especially if people from the “legal states” – including non-users – start reporting persistent experiences of being stopped and searched across the border.

There’s been some of this already, and the fact that most of the enforcement activity in Idaho, Utah and Wyoming doesn’t seem to have changed in recent years may not matter a lot.

The gaps in laws and permissions between the states long have been significant, but the change in marijuana laws is ratcheting things up significantly.

First Take

It's pot day in Oregon: Marijuana is now (generally) a legalized substance (under state law) in Oregon. The headline writers found various aspects of this, at the Oregonian (Oregon turns over a new leaf), the Medford Mail Tribune (Cannabis carry-out), the Pendleton East Oregonian (It's legal, now what?), the Salem Statesman Journal (Last-minute legislation). Will the world (at least in Oregon) change much? Probably not. For one thing, there aren't at the moment many places where people can legally get marijuana; people who want it and want to stay within state law mostly are dependent on people who give some to them. (Sales won't be legal for a while.) On the other hand, some celebratory giveaways are scheduled, mainly in the Portland area, for today.

How many Republican candidates for president? I'm counting 31 on this web site which is trying to keep track of the declared and the possible. True, some are pretty obscure and never achieve any sort of traction, but most you've probably heard of (if you follow politics at all). There's a lot . . .

First Take

Probably the most immediate and necessary task for the Oregon Legislature this year, aside from the regular work on budget and finance, has been developing state law to fill in gaps from last year's passage of the initiative legalizing marijuana (under state law). Opinions varied widely about how to deal with it - some wanted the voters' decision overturned as much as possible, others would have wanted it loosened further - but now the legislature seems to have settled on its approach. (It is not all the way through the legislature, but it has passed the key committee designing the measure, and seems to broad support.)

And it seems to be, overall, a mid-level proposal, broadly in concert with what the 2014 initiative contemplated. Some sections were changed not at all, such as the provision allowing people to grow up to four plants at their residences. It sets some commercial limits on grows, and some other limitations. Recognizing the differences in attitude toward pot around the state, it varied the rules on allowing commercial pot activity different for places that supported or opposed (by more than 55% negative vote) legalization. It seems designed, really, to minimize very strong opposition to the new regime.

There are glitches. Senator Floyd Prozanski, an attorney from Eugene, cautioned that “We’re setting up a system where we’ll have a three-month period ... with illegal sales to people who can legally posses recreational” marijuana. More glitches probably will be found, and have to be fixed.

Still, probably not a bad place to start.

First take

What the Oregonian pointed out today about pot sold in dispensaries, that traces of pesticides have been found in it, is not surprising and actually one of the arguments for legalizing it. Up to now, with pot grows being illegal, the operating principle had to have been that the fewer eyes on it, the better. Now reviews can be undertaken in sunlight, and cannabis likely to be a great deal safer.

On another pot front, that House bill barring the U.S. Department of Justice from messing with state laws allowing legalized marijuana, which passed that chamber, now has passed the Senate Appropriations Committee, placing it in a budget bill. Chances of passage into law are now . . . high. This would be the first significant rollback in federal law against pot ever, really, and may turn out to be a very big deal when the history of this prohibition is written down the road.

First take

The train isn't here yet, but you can hear it chugging down the track. Oregon Representative Earl Blumenauer's amendment to specifically give states authority to legalize marijuana - to end federal prohibition where states adopt an alternate regime - failed Wednesday on the House floor. But it failed by a narrow vote of 206-222. Four years ago, the margin would have been much greater; a few years from now it likely will pass easily. While the vote in Oregon was a partisan split (the four Democrats were in favor, Republican Greg Walden against), and split on party lines in Washington as well, a significant number of Republicans did support the measure, alongside most Democrats. (If half of the Democrats who voted against switched their votes, the amendment would have passed.) Among the most interesting of the Republicans, from the Northwest viewpoint: Raul Labrador of Idaho (though not fellow Idahoan Mike Simpson). But while that general amendment failed, another measure aimed at specifically allowing medical pot where states permit it passed by a strong 246-186 margin. Can you hear it down the track? (photo/Carlos Cracia)

Good article in Foreign Policy asking the question: Why has not the tremendous advance in technology over the last couple of decades delivered more democracy around the world? (I would suggest, though the article doesn't highlight it, this country.) Seven reasons are offered, including persistent negative on-ground conditions, the ability of authoritarians to use technology for their ends as well, and some evidence of advances more on the local than on the national level. One sentence: "Technology does not drive anything. It creates new possibilities for collecting and analyzing data, mashing ideas and reaching people, but people still need to be moved to engage and find practical pathways to act. Where the fear of being beaten or the habits of self-censorship inhibit agency, technology, however versatile, [it] is a feeble match." - rs

First take

So what's a sea lion afraid of? Not a lot, really. They congregate in port areas where people are; people don't bother them. Smaller animals don't, and sea lions are hefty creatures. And sea lions by the hundreds have been hanging out at certain Oregon port areas, especially Astoria where they've been taking over dock area supposedly in use by people. So how do you scare a sea lion off? The Port of Astoria is about to try a fiberglass orca, one used up to now in parades. Should be interesting to see how it does.

Supply and demand: Oregon is said to grow about three times the amount of pot it consumes (and still in the neighborhood after legalization hits in another month or so). The state Senate Republican leader even described the state as the "Saudi Arabia of marijuana." So where does the excess go? You could argue that Washington, and maybe Colorado, would be logical markets. But what about interstate trafficking? That could be a major (legal) obstacle.