- Associated Press - Friday, October 24, 2014

GRANTS PASS, Ore. (AP) - The sheriff of King County, Washington, is standing by his statements in a TV ad in support of a measure to legalize marijuana in Oregon after Oregon sheriffs trying to defeat the measure called them false and misleading.

“I find it deplorable to vehemently defend the status quo while offering zero alternatives,” Sheriff John Urquhart, whose county covers Seattle, said in a statement Friday. “It’s time to try something different, and marijuana legalization is one small step.”

In the ad released for broadcast on Tuesday, Urquhart said legalized marijuana is working in Washington, with revenues going to schools and police instead of drug cartels and driving under the influence arrests down.

Members of the Oregon State Sheriffs’ Association went after Urquhart on Friday, saying his statements were false or misleading. They cited state patrol data showing marijuana driving arrests were up, and noted that the law makes no specific provision to fund schools.

“How dare he use his position as a sheriff to spoon-feed Oregonians blatantly false information about Washington State right before an Oregon election,” Clatsop County Sheriff Tom Bergin said in a statement.

Urquhart’s office responded with information that millions in sales taxes are going to the general fund, where about 40 percent of the money goes to schools. Urquhart acknowledged that marijuana driving arrests are up, due to new rules making prosecution easier, but added that driving under the influence of intoxicants arrests in general have continued a longtime downward trend.

In an interview this week, Urquhart said he would not presume to tell anyone in Oregon how to vote, but he wanted them to know that regulation of marijuana was working, and the sky was not falling in Washington state since voters approved a 2012 initiative legalizing production and retails sales of marijuana. He added that he had endorsed Washington’s initiative to legalize marijuana.

Some Oregon sheriffs denounced Urquhart for comparing Washington to Oregon.

“You don’t see any Oregon sheriffs going up to Washington to weigh in,” Jefferson County Sheriff Jim Adkins said in a statement. “He needs to get his nose out of our state and show some respect. The issues we face are different.”

After administrative costs, Oregon’s Measure 91 would allocate marijuana tax revenues to schools, mental health programs, alcoholism and drug services, state police, city and county law enforcement, and the Oregon Health Authority. Oregon has no sales tax.

In Washington, sales taxes on pot sales go to the general fund. After $5 million in administrative costs, marijuana tax revenue is shared among health, substance abuse, public education, and research programs. Less than 1 percent goes to a school dropout prevention program.

The Oregon sheriffs added that the Oregon initiative would allow people to possess far greater amounts of marijuana than Washington’s.

The Washington State Sheriffs’ Association wrote a letter to the Oregon sheriffs saying Urquhart’s views were not endorsed by the organization.



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