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Dan Aguayo/The Oregonian

Aaron Pickel was driving north on Interstate 5 three years ago to visit his mother in Beaverton over Christmas when he was stopped in Roseburg for speeding. The officer found he was carrying several cookies and other treats laced with marijuana.

Pickel, who learned to his chagrin that his California medical marijuana card held no sway in Oregon, ended up pleading guilty to a felony marijuana charge and is now on probation.

Pickel’s run-in with the law illustrates some of the central issues in the debate over Oregon’s Measure 91 to legalize recreational marijuana.

On one hand, Pickel was carrying 2 to 3 pounds of marijuana edibles, plus a small amount of smokable pot, and walked away with a $200 fine and no jail time. That, opponents of Measure 91 say, shows Oregon is hardly gripped by reefer madness.

On the other, Pickel says, a felony conviction has made it all but impossible to get a job or even rent an apartment.

The former Clackamas High School football player who worked in California as a bouncer and as a clerk at a medical marijuana clinic is now back in Beaverton, staying in his mom’s spare bedroom. Pickel, 33, kicks himself for missteps including letting the state trooper search his car to not understanding the limits of his California marijuana card.

“It’s pretty much ruined my life at this point,” he says. “I’ve tried pretty hard to find work, and when you’re going against people who have nothing on their record and you do, you’re not going to get it.”

In a society where marijuana has become so prevalent, supporters of legalization say, it doesn’t make sense to keep users in a gray zone that can cause them real problems while continuing a system that feeds the illegal drug market.

“Our overarching feeling is that we …read more