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Josh Marquis Ignores Hundreds Imprisoned For Marijuana In Oregon

josh marquis oregon marijuana

(image via oregonlive.com)

As Josh Marquis continues campaigning against marijuana legalization in Oregon under Measure 91, he repeats certain talking points that could be charitably called “true” if one doesn’t read between the lines. Today’s example is the notion that we really don’t need to legalize marijuana because hardly anybody really goes to prison for it. The Bend Bulletin reports on Marquis’ remarks at the recent Measure 91 debate between him and Rep. Earl Blumenauer:

But he said the argument that Oregon’s prisons are clogged with marijuana users and the notion that the state pays more for prisons than education is “simply not true.”

Records from the Oregon Criminal Justice Commission last month showed just five people are in prison in Oregon for possession of marijuana. In total, 130 people are in prison for marijuana- related crimes with an average sentence of about two years, the records showed.

This is true, as far as it goes – five people for marijuana possession, 130 for growing, trafficking, and selling marijuana. But what Marquis and others like him are purposefully omitting is that marijuana can land you in jail or prison without it ever being acknowledged in the criminal justice statistics. And that’s something that a county district attorney certainly is aware of.

For instance, simple possession of marijuana becomes a crime of “distribution” if you are sharing it with your friends. Simple possession of too much marijuana automatically qualifies for “possession for sale” charges. Possess that marijuana in separate baggies or own a kitchen or postage scale and you’ll get “intent to deliver” charges tacked on. So those five people in prison for possession are the few who managed to avoid being lumped in with the other 130, many of whom may also have been simply possessing.

Then there are the charges for possession that earn you a trip to prison for another non-marijuana crime entirely. If you’re on probation or parole and get caught with marijuana or a dirty urine screen, you’re returned to prison on your original charges, not the fact you got caught with weed. If you possessed marijuana in your car, that can lead to a driving under the influence conviction. If you are a parent, you can be charged with child endangerment, abuse, or neglect. If you used a cell phone or text message or email to get your marijuana, that’s illegal use of communications device. If you lawfully own a firearm for sport or protection, you can be charged with using a firearm in the commission of the crime.

When confronted with these facts, prohibitionists will often defend by saying that the person serving time for marijuana possession often pleaded down from other, more serious crimes. Sometimes, those more serious crimes are the manufacture and sales of marijuana. Other times, they may have committed a serious crime, which leads one to wonder why a district attorney didn’t prosecute them for that? Do they really wish to keep marijuana a crime simply to be able to punish people they couldn’t convict of more serious crimes?


About Author

Executive Director: Russ Belville has been active in Oregon marijuana reform since 2005, when he was elected second-in-command of the state affiliate, Oregon NORML. After four years with Oregon NORML, Russ was hired by National NORML in 2009, working as Outreach Coordinator and hosting the NORML Daily Audio Stash podcast until 2012. Since then, Russ launched the 420RADIO marijuana legalization network and is the host of The Russ Belville Show, a live daily marijuana news talk radio program. Russ is also a prolific writer, with over 300 articles posted online and in print in HIGH TIMES, Huffington Post, Alternet, The Weed Blog, Marijuana Politics, and more.


  1. Your argument falls apart when you state that “what Marquis and others like him are purposefully omitting is that marijuana can land you in jail or prison without it ever being acknowledged in the criminal justice statistics. And that’s something that a county district attorney certainly is aware of.”, while at the same time stating that only 5-people are in jail for marijuana possession. If it is against the law (which is about to change) then, yes you can land in jail! To imply that Marquis is in some way ignoring ‘hundreds’ in jail–when you you even state that only 5 are actually serving time, is a bold inaccuracy on the author’s part.

  2. This is the outcome when laws are not written in explicit terms. There will always be politicians and others who oppose legalization much the same as occurred during prohibition days. If only cannabis had been the issue back in the day rather than alcohol we wouldn’t be having this argument now.

  3. Ha! I guess that’s what they mean when they call marijuana a gateway drug! A gateway to illegal asset forfiture, unreasonable sentencing, unjustified traffic violations, baseless child abuse claims and, oh yeah, a gateway to a speedy trip to prison! F-in assholes!

  4. Thank you for this thoughtful commentary, Johnny Green. It takes some people a LONG time to learn that in the end, honesty is always the best policy.

  5. I’ve always said, it’s NOT for possession itself, it’s all the ANCILLARY charges they pile on you to GET you to plead it down. Marquis KNOWS this as well. He’s a simple politician… who thinks that if they tell the LIE enough times, it’ll stick with UNINFORMED voters. He’s preying upon STUPID PEOPLE in essence. I’m sorry, that would just INSULT the SHIT outta me!

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