Pubdate: Thu, 04 Oct 2012
Source: San Jose Mercury News (CA)
Copyright: 2012 Associated Press
Author: Jonathan J. Cooper


Similar Efforts in Washington, Colorado Thrive

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) - As marijuana legalization efforts in Colorado 
and Washington pick up steam, a similar push in Oregon seems to be 
going up in smoke.

More than $ 4 million has flowed to Washington and close to a million 
in Colorado.

Yet in Oregon - a state with one of the nation's highest rates of pot 
use and a reputation for pushing the boundaries on marijuana laws- 
organizers are looking at a bank account with just $ 1,800.

Marijuana activists who have plowed big bucks into campaigns in the 
other two states complain the Oregon measure is poorly written and 
doesn't poll well. It didn't qualify for the ballot until July, 
severely limiting the time available to sway voters.

They also don't care for the man with a blemished record who's 
pushing Oregon's measure.

"That's just the hard, cold reality," said Allen St. Pierre, director 
of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. "They 
simply do not trust and will not work with the locals there."

Paul Stanford, the 51year-old chief petitioner behind the Oregon 
Cannabis Tax Act, dismissed criticism and said the Legislature can 
clean up any issues with the law after it passes.

As for funding questions, he said it's an advantage that the Oregon 
measure isn't being pushed by distant interests.

Oregon has been on the leading edge of the decades long push to 
loosen marijuana laws. It was the first state to decriminalize 
small-scale marijuana possession in 1973 and was also among the first 
to allow medicinal use of marijuana.

The state ranked seventh in the nation for marijuana use among people 
12 and older, according to data from the National Survey on Drug Use 
and Health. Colorado ranked third and Washington 11th.

In both those states, lawyers writing the initiatives took pains to 
incorporate lessons from earlier failures at the ballot box. Based on 
the results of polling and focus groups, the measures were carefully 
written to close down criticism that resonates with voters - both 
have a tough standard for stoned driving, for example, that's 
unpopular with some activists.

"I really think Colorado and Washington did an excellent job in how 
they set up their measures in a way that does appeal to mainstream 
voters," said Sam Chapman, the co-founder of Oregonians for Law Reform.

Oregon voters will be deciding on a far more aggressive change. The 
state would license growers and buy their weed, which would be sold 
exclusively through a network of staterun stores. The whole operation 
would be overseen by a seven-member board, five of whom would be 
appointed by marijuana growers and processors.

Stanford said he spent $ 5,000 each on polls in 2008 and 2010 that 
helped shape his measure, but didn't have the advantage of the 
sophisticated political research operations that advocates used in 
Colorado and Washington.

Then, there's the money problem.

Colorado's financial success has come about because of strong polling 
and years of work lining up support, said Mason Tvert, head of 
Colorado's Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol. Tvert also 
helmed a 2006 marijuana legalization measure that failed badly at the polls.

Proponents in Washington have raised more than $ 4 million, much of 
it from Peter Lewis, the retired chief executive of Progressive 
Insurance; Rick Steves, the author of travel guides; and Drug Policy 
Action. More than $ 1 million of that was raised last week alone.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom