CANYON CITY – Grant County Sheriff Glenn Palmer fired back last week in the two-state war of words over the proposal to legalize pot in Oregon.
Palmer wrote a letter to Sheriff John Urquhart of King County, Wash., asking him to reconsider his public stance supporting Oregon’s Measure 91.
Urquhart is featured in new Yes on 91 campaign ads, saying “the sky hasn’t fallen” since pot was legalized in Washington state.
Proponents of the Oregon measure say it will end a costly prohibition effort that has failed to stop marijuana use, while opponents say legalizing the drug will exacerbate law enforcement burdens, increased drugged driving and lure children to drug use.
Urquhart told the Associated Press he wouldn’t tell Oregonians how to vote, but he wanted to offer the message that pot regulations are already working in his state. He also said he wasn’t surprised to be on the other side of the issue, noting he also was at odds with others in law enforcement two years ago when he endorsed marijuana legalization in Washington.
The Oregon State Sheriffs Association unanimously opposes Measure 91.
Palmer, in his letter, said the situation in a large metro area like Seattle doesn’t compare to what faces the rural counties of Eastern Oregon.
He described Grant County’s high unemployment, socio-economic ills and the link to substance abuse and criminal activity.
He said the law in Washington doesn’t compare to the proposal in Oregon, which would allow people to possess far more marijuana including home-grown plants.
He accused Urquhart of bucking every single sheriff in Oregon with a stance “on an issue that is not going to affect you one bit.”
“As a public safety professional, I think you crossed the line,” Palmer wrote, calling the ad an attempt to sway an election – one that is “not appreciated nor is it acceptable.”
“Sheriffs across Oregon have put a lot of time, money and energy into defeating M91,” he wrote.
Urquhart’s high-profile stance also got pushback from his colleagues in Washington state.
The Washington State Sheriff’s Association sent a letter to the Oregon association leaders, lauding their unified stand and offering support.
“Although Washington state passed Initiative 502 legalizing recreational marijuana, we as a State are in the early stages of retail sales at this point,” wrote Sheriff Gene Dana, association president. “There has been no additional money funneled to law enforcement to address the concerns voiced throughout the campaign to pass Initiative 502 … It is premature to think that we have any relevant or measurable impact data on marijuana use. He said the sheriffs who have reviewed first-year reports from Colorado, which also legalized pot, find them “alarming and of great concern for what may come to Washington state.”
Oregon voters will decide the fate of Measure 91 in next Tuesday’s general election.