Pubdate: Wed, 25 Jun 2014
Source: Week, The (Delavan, WI)
Copyright: 2014 Bliss Communications Inc.
Author: Kate Willson


Paul Stanford had to admit last week he was busted.

For years, Stanford has been the face of the drive to legalize marijuana
in Oregon, the man who may have done more to push for lawful pot than
anyone else in the state.

But in a video announcement, Stanford conceded that his latest
petition drives would fail.

His measures would have allowed adults 21 and over to smoke marijuana
legally and possess as much as 24 plants and 1.5 pounds of dope. But
as the July 3 deadline for turning in signatures raced toward him,
Stanford said in an online video message that he didn't have enough
money to collect the 87,213 signatures needed for one of his measures
and the 116,284 needed for the other.

"We do not have the wherewithal to move forward and qualify for the
ballot," Stanford said.

There remains another measure out there, Stanford said, one that would
make marijuana legal, but with more restrictions. "I liked ours
better," he said, "but the big multimillionaire funders out there didn't."

The big money Stanford referred to includes billionaire George Soros,
the heirs of late Progressive Insurance co-founder Peter Lewis, and
other rich backers across the country. That money is flowing to a
measure pushed by New Approach Oregon that appears headed for the
November ballot.

Stanford's retreat-in the face of what may be a big victory for
advocates of legal pot this fall-marks a major change in the way
Oregon and the nation are preparing to debate the issue.

Supporters of legalized marijuana found a way to win in 2012, with
victories in Colorado and Washington state. Importing the same
successful strategy here meant there was no room for operators like
Stanford, whose campaigns often raised more questions than they answered.

"Why not yield to the team with a winning rate?" asks Allen St.
Pierre, executive director of the National Organization for the Reform
of Marijuana Laws. "Even if some of us hold our nose and endorse their
measures, even flawed, they have allowed for a baseline. You can build
on that baseline."

Oregon was the first state, in 1973, to decriminalize marijuana,
making possession of small amounts punishable by a fine. Oregon voters
have been asked to legalize pot more often than in any other state-and
have always answered no.

Stanford declined to be interviewed for this story. Of the 17
initiatives put forward since 1998, Stanford has run eight campaigns
and made the ballot once.

Stanford has also been beset by financial and legal problems, which
have clouded his broader message. Stanford, who operates a nationwide
chain of medical marijuana clinics, pleaded guilty to tax evasion in
2011 after a long history of trouble with the IRS.

His top contributor this year is the Foundation for Constitutional
Protection in Austin, Texas. The group has been shut down twice by
Texas authorities for failing to file tax returns. This year, the
foundation gave Stanford $89,500. (The group has given nearly $700,000
to Oregon pro-pot campaigns in the past five years.)

"The big money is not and will not come into states where they
perceive the local advocates are too counterculture for their tastes,"
St. Pierre says. "You had better have very clean books, very clean

In 2012, Washington state's campaign brought in $6.3 million,
including $2 million from Lewis and another $1.7 million from
Soros-backed Drug Policy Action. In Oregon, the campaign has raised
$1.7 million and hasn't even made the ballot yet. At least $1 million
of that has come from funders of the Washington measure.

Morgan Fox, spokesman for the Marijuana Policy Project, which spent $1
million to help Colorado legalize the drug in 2012, says voters
respond better to messages that emphasize strict regulation when they
don't know what an emerging industry will look like.

"People who are serious about reform realize it's unlikely voters are
going to make it as legal to buy as a tomato," he says. "We approach
the issue from a more traditional standpoint in terms of

If the New Approach Oregon initiative becomes law, marijuana sales
like those in Washington would require the Oregon Liquor Control
Commission to license recreational dispensaries and tax the sale of
weed. No one under 21 could purchase pot, and it would still be
illegal to drive while under the influence of the drug.

New Approach, like its predecessors, have emphasized law enforcement
and tax revenue says Brian Vicente, a lawyer who has worked with
campaigns and governments on the regulation of marijuana.

"We need to play by mainstream rules to get your message out there,"
Vicente says. "We talked about regulation and taxation. That differs
from some of the messages prevalent in the movement for 40 years,
which were focused on personal freedom and the right to get high."
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MAP posted-by: Matt