Oregon Reformers Are Trying to Legalize Pot On A Shoestring Budget
Of the three states looking to legalize marijuana today, Oregon is probably the least likely to do so. But that hasn't dampened the spirits of the people behind Measure 80.
Paul Stanford, 52, runs a medical marijuana business that he says generates over $5 million in annual revenues. The fact that he's using a big chunk of his revenue to fund Measure 80 is what makes Oregon different from Colorado and Washington where out-of-state cash has flowed freely into pro-legalization coffers.
"This initative has been largely funded by patients in Oregon. I've just been the steward of those funds and the person that made the decision to spend those funds in this way," Stanford says during an interview inside the Yes on 80 headquarters.
Stanford has faced criticism for his tax issues and his business. "It's basically a spin that isn't fair," he said.
Stanford has a long history in the drug reform movement. He moved to Oregon in 1984 to help with a statewide marijuana legalization effort that failed miserably. Oregonians voted to legalize medical marijuana in 1998, and Stanford got into the business in 2002. But he's not running the Measure 80 campaign by himself. Amanda Rain, 36, has worked in the drug policy reform movement for over ten years, and was a "utility staffer" on the doomed Proposition 19 campaign in California. Rain is part of a growing class of professional drug policy reformers who understand how political campaigns work.
"Prop 19 was amazing in that it brought it to the mainstream, there were criticisms that it was an off-election year and at the same time because it was an off-election year we got more media than anyone expected. That really brought it to a mainstream issue," Rain said.
She admits that the fundraising has been an issue for them, calling it a "huge challenge," but still they soldier on. Rain is doing field work now. Their game plan sounds reminiscent of a 2006 attempt to legalize marijuana in Colorado: yard signs, standouts on overpasses, some phone-banking (with the help of Firedoglake), rallies, and free media are the core of the Measure 80 campaign.
If they fall short, as the polls predict, they're planning a push in the state legislature. Still, a loss would be disappointing for Stanford, who says he designed his legislation to be able to withstand a legal battle.
"We designed our initiative, and I am pretty sure it is the only one yet devised, to deal with the federal supremacy issue head-on," Stanford said. "We designed it to be upheld in the inevitable legal challenge."