Washington and Colorado did it. Oregon almost did it and remains in one of the top spots for possible marijuana legalization expansion. (Maine and California are also hopefuls). This week one man who helped craft the successful Colorado campaign was in Portland to talk with activists about strategy for the next time around.
Steve Fox is the government relations director for the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP). He said that Colorado’s success came from their major campaign to present marijuana as an option safer than alcohol, “and why would we ban it when drinking is legal?”
Fox says that Oregon marijuana advocates should take the next four years to get their strategy together and begin mounting their long term campaign. While the issue could be brought to voters as early as 2014, he says that issues like this do better when paired with a presidential election.
One-hundred or so supporters showed up to the town hall style meeting, where Fox laid out the basics needed in a successful marijuana legalization recipe. He said the necessary ingredients were: “cooperation, education, drafting an amendment that could win political support and advertising.” He basically led a class in successful legalization campaigning.
Not everyone is convinced, however, that the issue should wait until 2016. Some believe they should “strike while the iron is hot” so to speak, and use the momentum from neighboring Washington to get it passed in 2014.
“I would never say winning in 2014 is impossible,” Fox said. “It might be possible, but you are going to have to invest a lot of money and then you might end up with a loss and for what?”
In addition to Fox’s valuable advice, U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Oregon) was there to talk about the federal side of things—expressing his support for the reclassification of marijuana from a Schedule I substance as well as opening up banking opportunities for legitimate businesses who make their money off lawful marijuana. Finally, he suggested Oregon pull together to more tightly manage their medical marijuana system. He cautioned that because the feds still see marijuana as a criminal offense, the state needs to regulate their system with greater oversight and caution than they currently are.
Twenty or even ten years ago these sort of meetings wouldn’t be nearly as well-attended nor covered by mainstream media. The tides are changing in regards to marijuana laws and only the next few years will tell how it’s handled here in Oregon.
In the meantime, there are still marijuana crimes on the books in Oregon and you could be incarcerated for running afoul of them.