Oregon Bill to Make Cigarettes a Controlled Substance

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An Oregon legislator has proposed a bill to make cigarettes a schedule III controlled substance. That means someone who lights up without a doctor’s prescription could get a year in jail, $6,250 fine or both.

That smoking rates have gone into a steep decline over the last fifty years is fantastic. Fewer deaths, fewer medical bills and less irritating smoke for nonsmokers has made this public health campaign highly effective.

Now this bill by state Rep. Mitch Greenlick threatens to go too far. This bill heads off the path of public education and into criminalization. Prohibition has been a disaster over the last century whether it is alcohol or other drugs. Haven’t we learned this lesson yet?

Ironically, Oregon was one of the three states with initiatives on the ballot in November to legalize marijuana. It failed but this attempt to criminalize cigarette possession runs counter to the lesson history has taught us.

This is a particularly strange position for Greenlick to take, who has advocated that marijuana should be treated the same as cigarettes and alcohol. Here from the Willamette Week in 2009:

Greenlick says he doesn’t see the logic in treating cannabis differently from tobacco or booze. “It doesn’t seem to me to make a hell of a lot of sense,” he says. “If we can get a serious discussion going, I think [legalization] is possible.”

Maybe Greenlick’s next bill will propose a doctor’s prescription for buying a six-pack of Budweiser. This idea doesn’t make a “hell of a lot of sense” either.

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