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White House signals possible crackdown on recreational marijuana

in Campus Life by
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    U.S. Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama speaking to supporters at an immigration policy speech hosted by Donald Trump at the Phoenix Convention Center in Phoenix, Arizona. Photo provided by Gage Skidmore

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer recently signaled that federal action against recreational marijuana use is in the works.

“There is a big difference between [medical] and recreational marijuana. And I think that when you see something like the opioid addiction crisis blossoming in so many states around this country, the last thing that we should be doing is encouraging people,” he said during a Feb. 23 press briefing.

When pressed further by reporters, he added: “I think that’s a question for the Department of Justice. I do believe that you’ll see greater enforcement of [recreational marijuana].”

The Department of Justice, headed by the new U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, is the agency that sets the agenda for marijuana enforcement.

Jeff Sessions, a long-time marijuana critic, hasn’t said anything yet about what actions the Department of Justice will take. However, his attitude can be clearly seen in recent comments he has made.

“The states can pass whatever laws they choose, but I’m not sure we’re going to be a better, healthier nation if we have marijuana being sold at every corner grocery store …. My best view is that we don’t need to be legalizing marijuana,” Sessions said at the National Association of Attorneys General Winter Meeting, in a video on C-span‘s website.

During a Feb. 27 meeting with reporters, Sessions made it a point to say that “it does remain a violation of federal law to distribute marijuana throughout any place in the United States, whether a state legalizes it or not,” according to news source Politico.

All of this has stirred up concerns among marijuana users that state laws legalizing marijuana use may no longer be tolerated under the Trump administration.

UCC Student Logan Martin is concerned about the federal government’s apparent desire to recriminalize marijuana: “How many people are already in prison for cannabis trafficking or production? If it’s something that we know helps people, and we know it isn’t as harmful as alcohol, then why are we putting it on that level?” he said.

Oregon legalized recreational marijuana in July 2015. According to a report from the Oregon Department of Revenue, over $60 million dollars in tax revenue were generated during 2016 from subsequent marijuana sales.

This revenue comes at a time when Oregon’s budget has a projected $1.7 billion shortfall, according to Oregon Governor Kate Brown’s foreword to the budget.

Less marijuana sales would mean less tax revenue for the State of Oregon to spend on important projects such as education and public infrastructure.

The Department of Justice has yet to cite any concrete facts about how states that have legalized recreational marijuana are worse off, but it’s easy to see how state budgets would be hurt by a crackdown.

Marijuana dispensaries throughout Oregon would have their businesses largely affected by such an action.

“It would of course hurt. Recreational retail is what we are. We did do medical before, but there’s quite a difference in the business,” said Mark Sutton, manager at Umpqua Green Cross.

Much of their new business “would just go back to the black market. That’s what’s been done for decades,” Sutton said.

Much of the country is waiting with bated breath to see what happens next.

 

Gray whales to begin migration along Oregon coast

in Events by
  • Gray-Whale-Fluke-for-Bens-Whale-Story-1.jpg?fit=500%2C500
    A gray whale goes for a deep dive. Photo provided by Sam Beebe, Ecotrust/flickr.

As college students begin their spring break vacations, thousands of gray whales will be making their way up the Oregon coast to reach their Arctic feeding grounds, according to the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department’s website. The whales make this trip every year from late March to June from the warm waters around Baja Mexico. They will return south in December and January.

“They travel over 12 thousand miles every year doing this migration, and to cross paths and get up close and personal with one of these animals, you realize they are an amazing creature that lives a life totally unknown to us, and for a brief moment you’re crossing paths. It’s really special,” said Luke Parsons, Park Ranger at the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department.

Volunteers and whale watchers will be flocking to the coast to catch a glimpse of the majestic animals.

The end of December and spring break, the two best times to see whales at a wide variety of locations along the Oregon coast, have been designated “Whale Watch Weeks.” However, spotting whales can sometimes be difficult for amateur whale watchers.

Whale Watching Spoken Here, a volunteer organization dedicated to observing whales off our coast, will have volunteers at 24 locations to assist visitors with spotting whales. They will be there from March 25 to March 31 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. The three closest locations to UCC are Shore Acres State Park near Coos Bay, Face Rock State Scenic Viewpoint in Bandon, and Umpqua Lighthouse State Park near Reedsport.

“These naturalists are trained to spot whales, know the species, and will be recording how many they see each day. Even if you don’t get lucky and spot a whale, the naturalists can help you see lots of other special marine animals such as pelagic birds, seals and sea lions,” said Melissa Janicek, Marine Naturalist for The American Cetacean Society, in an email interview.

UCC student Brooklyn Borges, who visited the Yaquina Lighthouse during the end-of-year Whale Watch Week, said about her experience, “We saw about a half dozen surface for air. It was pretty cool.”

Whales are often seen when they surface to take a breath before a dive. Whale watchers may also see a tailfin before a deep dive or a head peeking out from under the water to get a look around. If whale watchers get lucky, they might see a whale breach the water and crash down with a thunderous splash.

Melissa Janicek described the feelings that first time whale watchers often display, “People of all ages just get this look of amazement and disbelief in their eyes that they are seeing this 45 foot long, 35 ton animal in real life. People yell, scream and even cry the first time they spot a whale. I love helping people achieve that sense of wonder and happiness.”

Those who can’t make it out during Whale Watch Week may still be able to see whales as they continue their migration through June. Also, about 200 gray whales will halt their journey and remain along the Oregon coast to feed during the summer. One place to observe these resident whales is at the Depoe Bay Whale Watching Center, which is staffed by the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department.

For more information on Whale Watch Week, visit http://www.whalespoken.org .

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