Steven Berley

Steven Berley is a local business owner and a resident of La Grande.

My Voice columns reflect the views of the author only. We do not fact check.

My Voice columns should be 500-700 words. Submissions should include a portrait-type photograph of the author. Authors also should include their full name, age, occupation and relevant organizational memberships. We edit submissions for brevity, grammar, taste and legal reasons. We reject those published elsewhere. Send columns to La Grande Observer, 1406 5th St., La Grande, Ore., 97850, fax them to 541-963-7804 or email them to .

On June 7, when I arrived at my office, I discovered the American flag hanging on my door had been trounced. It had footprints all over it.

At that moment, I thought about my late father (Douglas L. Berley), who served in the Navy on the aircraft carrier USS Shangri-La. I thought about my maternal grandfather (Paul A. Curry), who served in the Army, in Burma, in World War II. And I thought about my paternal grandfather (Dr. Harry M. Berley) who also served in WWII as an Army doctor in Germany.

Each day, when I open my office door, I see the American flag hanging in the window, and it ensures a day doesn’t go by that I don’t think about the sacrifice they made for the American flag. Seeing it reminds me to respect and to be grateful for the American way of life.

Being curious, saddened and naturally upset, I had to investigate for myself what happened to my
American flag.

Since there were fresh footprints, likely from the evening before, it didn’t take me long to discover both who and why. I found video footage of the event. Yes, it was the night before, June 6. With patience I watched the video and listened to why they did it. I heard them say that the last vote against allowing marijuana was 52-48, that it was the “democratic process” and we should “follow the process,” and that if “it gets to the people, and it gets voted down, it gets voted down.”

I also listened to the bystanders who made some good points, but nevertheless they encouraged six people to remove my rights as a La Grande and U.S. citizen. None of those points though, mattered to my little flag.

I could go on about the statistics of deaths in this country due to opioids, alcohol and self-inflicted harm, and those alone add up to well over 100,000 per year, per the CDC vital statistics. But, I did read on the DEA’s website the number of deaths attributable to marijuana was an astonishing number: zero. Yes, zero deaths attributed to marijuana, to cannabis.

In further having an open mind, since that is what America represents, I see that New Jersey (with Pennsylvania likely to follow) will allow marijuana as a gateway drug. A gateway drug approved by the state. Why? To address the opioid crisis, they are experimenting with the approach to get these seriously addicted people to convert to marijuana instead. I guess those states read the same DEA drug fact sheet I happened to find.

And, to dispel the argument that getting everyone off of drugs is counter to human nature: When humankind no longer exists, only then will drugs stop being an everyday part of life, good, bad or indifferent.

Sure, people can get a medical marijuana card, or go to another town. Point taken.

But, when it was said and done — after all of the discussion about American democracy, and contradictory to not one but five U.S. Constitutional amendments that address the right to vote — six people in La Grande voted no against the American flag.

There are now three American flags hanging on my office door and windows. One for each of my forefathers. And they will never come down until freedom, the right to vote and a respect for the American system are realized in
La Grande.