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Marijuana Legalization Initiative Loss in Oregon Was Avoidable

Washington and Colorado brought home the bacon for the drug reform movement... but Oregon was a lost opportunity worth revisiting.
 
 
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Paul Stanford, 52, is the author and prime mover behind Oregon’s marijuana legalization initiative, Measure 80, which garnered 47% of the vote.

“We came close,” he said when I called to offer condolences a few days after the election/ He did not sound downhearted.  “We won Portland by over 60 percent," he said.  “Here’s an amazing thing: the day after the election the  Oregonian, which had opposed us and called us all kinds of names, ran an editorial arguing that the legislature should now legalize and regulate marijuana!”

The billionaires Back East who put about $5 million into successful initiatives in Colorado and Washington state did not contribute to the Oregon legalization effort.  Stanford had implored them for help, to no avail. “If we’d had a half million dollars of outside support for advertising, we’d have won,” he says matter-of-factly.

He wound up providing almost all the money himself—about $400,000 for the signature drive that put Measure B on the ballot and $300,000 for a skeleton campaign staff, literature and ads. Stanford runs a chain of clinics, the Hemp and Cannabis Foundation (THCF), at which doctors confirm that patients  qualify to use cannabis as medicine under state law. The patients are pre-screened by staff and must have documentation of their qualifying diagnoses. THCF operates in Oregon, Washington, Hawaii, Colorado, Michigan, Nevada and Rhode Island.  Stanford, who spends a lot of time in airplanes, is setting up an office in Massachusetts, where passed a medical marijuana law on Nov. 6. His detractors imply that he has made much more money than he spent on Measure 80. I suspect they’re wrong but I hope they’re right.

Stanford’s friends and staff are working class, his wife works, their three kids go to public school, they rent a modest house in a not-very-classy section of Portland. His business would have suffered in Oregon had Measure 80 passed —people would no longer have needed a doctor’s authorization and a license from the state to obtain marijuana— but Stanford undoubtedly would have adapted with a new business model. Legalization has been his political goal for more than 30 years. He said the wording of Measure 80 was “draft number 90-something” of the magnum-opus leaflet he has been fine-tuning for years. (He has a role model when it comes to rewriting. The late Jack Herer was staying at Stanford’s Portland apartment in the mid-1980s when he produced the first draft of The Emperor Wears No Clothes.)

“I applaud the success of Colorado’s and Washington’s legalization initiatives,” Stanford said. He thinks the new law in Washington might inspire the Oregon legislature to act.  The Nov. 7 Oregonian editorial acknowledged that there would soon be “a dependable supply of legally obtainable pot available within a short drive of downtown Portland,” adding, “We’re going to need a new bridge, pronto.” (Knowing that marijuana is not a dangerous drug and eager to signal their own hipness, journalists frequently make light of the subject.)

The Oregonian went on: “Assuming everything goes as planned, Washington’s liquor control board will adopt rules by the end of 2013 for the licensing of marijuana producers, processors and retailers. Marijuana stores will proliferate and people 21 and older will be able to buy up to an ounce at a time. Because Oregonians will be free to buy Washington pot, many will, and they’ll drive it right back into Oregon… Our neighbor to the north will collect millions of dollars in new ‘sin’ taxes, with much of the money coming from Oregonians who’d be happy to keep their business and taxes in state if given the opportunity.”

 
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