Marijuana Advocates Wonder What Happened in Oregon

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With the recent wins for medical marijuana in Connecticut and Massachusetts, and the full legalization for adult recreational use in Washington and Colorado, the seemingly pot-friendly state of Oregon ought to have been an easy win. But Measure 80, a ballot proposal that would have allowed recreational use of pot, fell flat in Oregon. Now, advocates are licking their wounds and trying to figure out why.

Their answer so far? Money.

According to a piece published in CounterPunch, in both states where marijuana was legalized, “back East billionaires” funded campaigns in those states, whereas in Oregon, the measure was underfunded and driven almost solely by the efforts of one person – Paul Stanford.

He’s quoted as saying, right after the election: “We came close. We won Portland by over 60 percent and they’ve still got about 100,000 Portland votes to count. I think it’ll go above 47 percent when all those votes are counted.”

Most of the money for the effort to legalize weed in Oregon came from Stanford himself, the owner of a chain of marijuana clinics. Reports are that he spent about $700,000 in an effort to get the measure on the ballot and then promote it. But this pales in comparison to the millions donated for the two states where initiatives were passed.

When all the votes were counted, Measure 80 lost 54 to 46 percent.

Critics also blame the complexity of the proposal, one that Stanford largely drafted himself. The full text runs about six pages of small print, mentions George Washington and outlines in some detail a host of changes to existing Oregon law. Most of the material falls under taxing authority, and the measure’s actual title was, “The Oregon Cannabis Tax Act.”

The next hope for advocates is that legislators in Oregon will take up the issue and just draft something themselves. However, opponents point out that the measure failed and making marijuana legal in Oregon would go against the wishes of the people. Oregon already has a medical marijuana statute.

The take-home lesson for those pushing ballot measures in other states for legalization seems to be: Make sure you have enough money. As callous as that assessment is, in the US it does seem like money gets votes, making the corollary, not enough money equals not enough votes.

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