Oregon Services Plundered For Drug War

The news articles linked to this page illustrate how the war on marijuana users has led to Oregon's crisis in funding for education, aid to families with children, parks, public health and public safety, drug treatment and other vital services. In recent years local and state governments have always found more money for prisons, police and other armaments for the war on cannabis consumers. Tax revenues have increased steadily for more than a decade, yet somehow budgets for social programs get cut year after year.

Do the Math

Anyone who does the math quickly realizes that trying to lock up the 7.8 percent of the population over age 12 who use illegal drugs will bankrupt the taxpayers long before it bankrupts the illicit-drug market. The refusal of public officials and most mass media to discuss the issues honestly or to acknowledge the facts that they themselves have made politically unpopular, or to apply the principles of cost-benefit analysis to the war on cannabis consumers, should induce Oregon voters to endorse such reform measures as the Oregon Cannabis Tax Act, which would generate hundreds of millions of dollars every year for public services.

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Portland schools face more cuts in staff, from The Oregonian, Jan. 9, 1998. Portland and Oregon have lots of money to build lots of new prisons, but not enough for schools. The next generation will undoubtedly appreciate being "protected" from drugs while they're flipping burgers for better-educated people who move here from out of state. And fortunately for drug warriors, the less educated people are, the more willing they are to fall for the drug-warriors' propaganda. Who will stop this vicious cycle?

"Since 1990, tuition at state public colleges has increased more than 80 percent to make up for cuts to higher education totaling more than $100 million."The Oregonian, "Students plan rally in support of tuition freeze," Feb. 20, 1997, pp. E1 & E7.

While Demands Increase In Oregon, Load Falls On Fewer State Workers, from The Oregonian, Aug. 20, 1996. The director of the Oregon Child Care Division estimates the state has seen a 110 percent increase in child-care centers and group homes in the past 10 years and a 10 percent decrease in the division's staff. (Funding for prisons for pot smokers expanded rapidly during the same period because those in power thought locking up countless people for pot was more important than protecting or nurturing the next generation. Then the same prohibitionists have the gall to portray themselves as defenders of youth....)

State may fold tent on some parks, from The Oregonian, June 6, 1996. With $1 billion in prisons on the drawing board, the Oregon Parks and Recreation Commission will consider whether to close as many as 40 least-used parks "because of a budget deficit." Exercising its mythopoeic proclivity, the paper reports the state Emergency Board won't even consider giving more money to the state's beloved park system because the board "already faces multimillion-dollar requests for schools and prisons, both higher priorities." Huh? Since when were schools a priority at all?

Making prisons top state industry is not in our interest by Russell Sadler of Cascadia NewsNet, April 8, 1996. Oregon's new growth industry is not tourism. It is not high technology. It is not service industry. It is prisons. Conservative legislators force up tuition and refuse to appropriate more money to colleges and universities because a $25,000 a year subsidy to students is too much. The same conservatives are willing to house more inmates who cost Oregon taxpayers $38,000 a year to guard.

Teachers get word on layoffs, The Oregonian, April 2, 1996. Portland Public Schools lay off 513 full-time employees, including 278 classroom teachers, to balance next year's budget. Since Measure 5 went into effect in 1991, Portland Public Schools have reduced full-time equivalent positions by 1,133.

Back to the Blackboard. Willamette Week, March 27, 1996. He got his three wishes, but Superintendant Jack Bierwirth still needs a miracle. Mayor Katz's so-called $9 million "bailout" was really no bailout at all.

Teach Your Children Well - Lunch Money Leading Indicator, Willamette Week, March 27, 1996. Portland's school woes could send affluent residents to the suburbs, exacerbating public schools' downward spiral.

California: The Land Of Prisons, by Anthony Lewis of The New York Times, March 26, 1996. Will Oregon follow the route taken by California, which has impoverished what was once the finest state system of education in the country in order to build dozens of new prisons, primarily for pot offenders?

Oregon dropout rate increases, from The Oregonian, March 19, 1996. For the first time, the Oregon Department of Education tracked an entire class statewide through four years of high school. Cumulatively, the figures show that one in four students, or 24.5 percent of the class of 1995 dropped out before finishing. School administrators lay much of the problem to tight budgets. The school leaders said they had been forced to curtail alternative education programs, lay off counselors and dump some elective courses that were attractive to at-risk students.

Storm clouds gather over school budget, The Oregonian, Thursday, March 14, 1996. Portland board members prepare to cut next year's spending $15 million below current budget levels.

Leadership 101, Willamette Week, Wednesday, March 13, 1996. Sixteen-year-old Jason Franklin is doing more to save Portland's schools than city leaders, politicians and corporate CEOs. The article notes that "...the [Portland] district has had to cut spending per pupil by more than 14 percent, from $6,183 in 1991-92 to $5,407 last school year, while enrollment has increased from about 55,000 students to almost 58,000."

"According to the [Oregon] Legislative Fiscal Office, in the 1991 biennium, $733 million went to higher education and $593 million to public safety, which includes both the Corrections and Judicial Departments. In the current biennium, $627 million goes to higher education and $752 million to public safety." - Willamette Week, "Megalo Mannix," Jan. 31, 1996, p. 19.

Portland schools face budget cuts, The Oregonian, Friday, Dec. 15, 1995. The system, in tough contract talks with teachers, may lay off more than 400 employees. [Includes link at bottom to Portland Public Schools' web pages, where the 1996-1997 budget is included.]

Layoffs may hit Portland schools, The Oregonian, Tuesday, Dec. 12, 1995. The district faces a reduced budget and less state aid next year, and officials are looking for ways to trim outlays

How's your cutting and pasting? Any volunteer who could scan or type up and e-mail us relevant news articles would be much appreciated.

More information on what's happening in Portland and Oregon can be found at Portland NORML's All Politics is Local page. Additional articles on past efforts to humanize state marijuana laws are linked to our History of Oregon Reform Efforts page. Be sure to check out also our page of excellent general-interest articles on cannabis and drug policy, as well as our extensive but well-organized page of links to other resources on cannabis, drug policy and activism. Top

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