Oregon Marijuana Dispensary Initiative Faces Uphill Battle [FEATURE]

Despite a lack of organized opposition, Oregon's medical marijuana dispensary initiative, Measure 74, faces an uphill battle as election day draws near. In a poll last week, it had only 40% support, almost unchanged from the 41% who supported it in an August poll.

Still, Measure 74 supporters are hoping that last minute campaign efforts, as well as an increase in "unlikely voters" will get the measure over the top. Yes on Measure 74, the main group pushing the initiative, commissioned a poll earlier this month of young, progressive voters inclined to sit out this year's election. It found that those voters were more than twice as likely to vote when told about the measure than when told about elections for state officer.

"The latest polls are using a likely voter model that is not favorable to us, so the poll numbers don't look so good," said campaign spokesman Anthony Johnson. "Forecasters are expecting a right-wing Tea Party wave, and what we are doing is calling voters under 40 who voted in 2008. If young voters come out like they did in 2008, we win in a landslide. It's all about turning out the vote."

The campaign was able to use Democratic Party phone banks in the get out the vote effort this week (the party endorsed the measure in October), but that's late in the game. In Oregon, voters vote by mail, not at a polling station, and the vote has been ongoing all month.

Since passage of the Oregon Medical Marijuana Act in 1998, the number of Oregonians with a medical marijuana recommendation has ballooned to more than 36,000. But without a dispensary system in operation, patients either have to grow their own or find someone they can designate as a caregiver to grow for them. There are currently over 19,000 people registered as caregivers.

Medical marijuana advocates attempted a dispensary initiative in 2004, but that effort was defeated. It got 42.8% of the vote.

Measure 74 would create a system of state-licensed nonprofit dispensaries and grow operations to supply them. It bars dispensaries within 1,000 feet of schools or residential neighborhoods. It sets annual fees for providers at $1,000 and for dispensaries at $2,000. Both growers and dispensaries would additionally pay a 10% sales tax on all medical marijuana transactions. Revenues from the dispensary and grow operations could boost state coffers from anywhere between $3 million and $20 million a year, according to a financial impact statement prepared by state officials.

While Measure 74 has reported only a few tens of thousands of dollars in donations this month, there is no organized opposition. Proponents are airing radio commercials in Portland and Eugene, and a legion of volunteers are putting up yard signs and doing get out the vote efforts across the state. There have been no opposition TV or radio ads.

"This has been a low-budget, grassroots campaign," said Johnson. "At the end, we got $25,000 to run radio ads by Tom Potter, the former police chief and mayor of Portland, and we're expecting another $50,000 to come. We also got $10,000 from Peter Lewis, and Drug Policy Alliance head Ethan Nadelmann rounded up another $15,000."

"The opposition is law enforcement, and that's about it," said Johnson. "We have 11 voter pamphlet arguments on our side, and there are only two opposing. One of them is a combined effort of sheriffs, police chiefs, and prosecutors. The other is from Oregonians Against Legalizing Marijuana, which is in cahoots with Calvina Faye's Save Our Society From Drugs."

Oregonians Against the Legalization of Marijuana executive director Shirley Morgan will not debate the issue or do interviews, according to Johnson, but Save Our Society From Drugs has a web page attacking Measure 74. It warns that passage of the initiative could lead to the same "pot shop chaos" as has occurred in California, Colorado, and Montana. The web site also worries that dispensaries could be robbed and that passage could lead to -- gasp! -- "heavy vehicle and foot traffic in retail areas."

One thing helping the campaign this year is near unanimity and unity within the state's often fractious marijuana and medical marijuana movements. Despite bickering and backbiting in the run-up to the campaign, almost all of the state's advocacy groups are now on the same page regarding Measure 74. The one exception is the Stormy Ray Cardholders Foundation, which has opposed this effort to create a dispensary system that would ease access issues for patients.

The hour is late for Measure 74. Given that Oregon is a mail-in voting state, most votes have probably already been cast. Whether a last minute push now can make the difference will be known in a matter of hours.

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Permission to Reprint: This article is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license.
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oregon voting

only a third of the ballots are i in Oregon

so a last minute push could indeed make a difference!


please, cast your ballot and if you are in Oregon

Yes on M74!

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