By Peter Korn | The Portland Tribune
OREGON — Oregon marijuana proponents had their sights set on two fronts Tuesday – and most were disappointed on both.
Ballot Measure 74, which would have greatly expanded Oregon’s medical marijuana program, appeared late Tuesday night to be on its way to a solid defeat that a few months ago some thought unlikely. With over one million votes counted statewide, the measure was on the short end of a 58 percent to 42 percent tally. Multnomah County was the only county in the state to vote in favor of the measure.
Measure 74 would have allowed privately run marijuana dispensaries to sell cannabis to medical marijuana cardholders across the state. It also would have allowed for-profit state-licensed marijuana growers to supply those dispensaries.
Nearly as important to the marijuana movement was the apparent defeat Tuesday of California’s Proposition 19, which would have more dramatically remade the national marijuana landscape if it had passed. Proposition 19 would have fully legalized marijuana for adults, making California the first state to do so.
California led the way with the country’s first medical marijuana program in 1996 and Oregon followed California’s lead in establishing its medical marijuana program two years later. Oregon marijuana advocates had talked, prior to Tuesday night, of a possible 2012 legalization measure in this state if California’s Proposition 19 had passed.
Tuesday night, those advocates weren’t quite so certain what the future might bring. Anthony Johnson, co-author of Measure 74, said that the tea party climate of this year’s election was a factor in 74’s defeat.
“In a political climate like that it’s tough for a marijuana reform measure,” Johnson said.
Johnson also said that the campaign for Measure 74, which benefited by a late infusion of cash and had virtually no organized opposition but was opposed by many law enforcement officials, did increase public awareness of medical marijuana, but that more had to be done next time.
“This is a measure that takes time to explain to the public,” Johnson said.
Sandee Burbank, executive director of Mothers Against Misuse and Abuse, a medical marijuana support organization and clinic, said she thought the defeat of Measure 74 would serve to further confuse an already uncertain medical marijuana landscape. Burbank said she knows of at least two illegal marijuana dispensaries already operating in Oregon, and that law enforcement officials appear loathe to deal with the operations.
“There’s obviously a need for patients to have access to this kind of medicine,” Burbank said. “As far as I’m concerned we should just legalize it and get on to health issues that are real. Prohibition doesn’t work, never worked, never will work.”
Stormy Ray, president of the Stormy Ray Cardholders’ Association, and a driving force behind Oregon’s original medical marijuana ballot measure, said she thought Measure 74’s defeat signaled a victory for medical marijuana cardholders. Ray said she believed the dispensary system would have led to “profiteering” and higher prices for cannabis sought by cardholders.
Rays said for now, the future supply of cannabis for cardholders would be better handled by cardholder cooperatives, which would allow patients to share their cannabis supplies.
Rays also was pleased with the defeat of California’s Proposition 19.
“I have seen so much corruption associated with the word legalization that when I hear the word it makes me cringe,” she said.