NOTE: The following article originally ran in the Thursday, Feb. 1, 1968, edition of the Albany Democrat-Herald.
LEBANON — The use of marijuana in Oregon, especially in schools, is increasing, according to A.G. McLain, secretary of the State Board of Pharmacy.
McLain spoke to the Lebanon Lions Club Wednesday. The State Board of Pharmacy, he said, is charged with enforcement of the Narcotic and Dangerous Drug acts, working with law enforcement agencies.
The use of the hallucinatory drug LSD, more prevalent some time ago, has been curtailed, according to McLain, but reports of marijuana in schools — sometimes in junior high schools — are increasing, although no definite figures are available.
McLain said he knew of no such reports for the Lebanon area, but mentioned Albany, Corvallis and Sweet Home, as well as the Portland area and Lake Oswego.
He called marijuana a "public health menace" and urged every citizen to help in its control. "Marijuana is not a narcotic and it is not addicting," he said, "but persons who use marijuana get the kicks only a short time then they turn to other things." He said he knew of many cases of marijuana users who are now addicted to stronger, debilitating drugs such as heroin and cocaine.
"Marijuana has no known therapeutic medical use," he said, but mentioned it has been known from Chinese records 4,000 years old and was used by some middle east cultures to "charge up soldiers before a battle." In this form it is called "hashish, a manicured form of marijuana."
After the meeting, however, McLain also said, "We're fighting two wars in Vietnam," referring to use of marijuana among soldiers, and he called the efficiency statistics about those soldiers "terrible."
The equating of marijuana use with crime can be documented, he said, "and it has been shown to be the precursor of many crimes" due to its hallucinatory effects. He said it also can be a factor in traffic accidents, due to faulty perceptions.
Alcohol, according to McLain, cannot be compared to marijuana. He told the Lions there are presently 6 million alcoholics being rehabilitated under tax-supported government programs, state and national, and asked, "Do you want a similar situation if the laws governing marijuana are relaxed?"
He said he agreed, however, "to some extent," that perhaps the laws concerning being in possession of marijuana, or being in a place it is found, are "harsh." He said he felt "judges should have authority for leniency for the innocent and the first offender."
Referring to hearings in September 1967, aimed at taking marijuana off the dangerous drugs list and making its possession a a misdemeanor rather than a felony, he said an extension of time until March 1 has been granted by the board for filing of a brief regarding the hearings by a Eugene attorney representing "three hippies." When this brief is filed, he said the board would reconvene on the question and make a decision.
But even if the board decided to take marijuana off the list, felony penalties would still apply in Oregon under federal and international laws, he said, so the action would "accomplish nothing."
Marijuana was placed in the Uniform Narcotics Act in 1932, according to McLain, "because there was no place else to put it."
"In its crude form," he said, explaining several schools the State Board of Pharmacy is staging for State Police, "marijuana smells like alfalfa, but has a sweetish odor when burned." At a high school demonstration near Portland, McLain said school counselors who smelled marijuana which he burned during the talk recognized the odor as one they had encountered in restrooms.
Turning to other drugs, McLain said a concerted effort is being made to encourage more control of prescription blanks by doctors, who sometimes leave them on counters and desks.
On LSD, he said that contrary to popular belief, the drug cannot be made "in the average kitchen." He admitted not too much knowledge of chemistry would be required but said several pieces of sophisticated equipment are needed.
He also said the banana peel fad of a year or so ago was "a hoax."
See also: 'Marijuana in Albany, chief says' (Feb. 2, 1968)