2012 was a bittersweet election year for me. I was absolutely ecstatic to see Washington and Colorado legalize recreational marijuana. However, I was sad that Oregon did join them. The day after the election results were finalized, Oregon’s largest media outlet The Oregonian published an article telling the Oregon Legislature to legalize marijuana.
In the article, The Oregonian essentially stated that marijuana was nearly legalized in the 2012 Election, and that the Oregon Legislature should step up and pass a reasonable bill before activists pass a legalization bill that the Legislature won’t like. Immediately activists gathered in Portland (I was there) to put their brains together to see what would be the best approach. As seems to always be the case, some activists went in one direction, and other activists in other directions. But a good coalition was built that started lobbying the Oregon Legislature.
Unfortunately, a bill was not passed by the Oregon Legislature. Behind closed doors leading members of the Oregon Legislature basically said that they would never support marijuana legalization. They were told that if they don’t do what’s right, that activists would pursue an initiative in 2014. The Legislature refused to even pass a referral, which would have still let Oregon voters decide the issue, but would have saved a lot of time and money because signatures wouldn’t have to be gathered.
But, since the Legislature didn’t step up, activists did exactly what they said they would do and gathered enough signatures to place their version of marijuana legalization on the ballot. Now activists, and activist organizations, are pouring millions of dollars into a campaign that would legalize cultivation of up to four plants, and possession of up to 8 ounces, and would regulate marijuana like alcohol in Oregon.
There is strong support in every poll that I have seen. I’m confident that Oregon will legalize marijuana on Election Day 2014. Then, and only then, will the Oregon Legislature realize that they passed up a great opportunity to have their say on the issue. I’m personally glad that citizens and activists are going to legalize marijuana instead of the Oregon Legislature, because the citizen version isn’t peppered with anti-marijuana influences, which would likely have been the case with an Oregon Legislature version.
Other state legislatures need to pay close attention to what’s going on in Oregon. If they want to have a say on marijuana legalization (other than ‘no, we are not doing that’), they better step up soon. If not, activists and national organizations are going to do everything they can to organize and pass their own version of marijuana legalization in every state that allows initiatives. As each domino falls, and momentum builds, we will rapidly approach a day when marijuana is legalized on a federal level.