Washington and Colorado became the first states to legalize pot - but why not Oregon?
All three voted on marijuana-legalization ballot initiatives, and Washington and Colorado passed them by 10-percentage-point margins. But Oregon, which is bluer than Colorado, was the only state to vote against legalized pot on Tuesday, turning down Measure 80 54 percent to 46 percent. Some Election-Night observers are scratching their heads.
Part of the difference was that Oregon's initiative failed to gather support from big-time donors. In January, the Associated Press reported on the troubled financial history of Paul Stanford, the initiative's main backer, who makes a business of connecting medical-pot patients with sympathetic doctors.
Perhaps it's also that Oregon's law was kind of wacky: It would have turned the state, effectively, into a pot dealer.
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The new laws in Washington and Colorado direct state boards to license and regulate commercial pot growers, processors, and sellers, with the states reaping tax revenues from the new commerce. (If those laws are implemented, that is; there are still doubts over whether the federal government will seek to block them). The laws loosely followed models suggested elsewhere, and both were supported financially by the Drug Policy Alliance, a national drug-policy-reform group.
In Oregon, had Measure 80 passed, the state would have licensed sellers and processors - but instead of regulating its sale, the state would have bought the weed, packaged it, stamped it with a state seal and a potency grade, and sold it to customers at a profit.
This all would have been done by something like ABC stores in liquor-controlled states: An Oregon Cannabis Commission (OCC) would have run all ends of the process, finally selling it at OCC stores. Profits would have gone to purchases, testing, grading, shipping, promotion of Oregon hemp and hemp-made biodiesel, and back to the state's general fund. Like an actual drug dealer, the state could have stopped selling it to any legal, 21-and-over buyers who became pot-addled derelicts (failing to live up to "statutory or common-law dut[ies]").
But the oddest thing about Oregon's failed law was its preamble, which jumped quickly to a history lesson about George Washington's cannabis growth and the preference of "Gouverneur Morris of Pennsylvania, who spoke at the U.S. Constitutional Convention in 1787 more than any other delegate" for marijuana over tobacco. It also called marijuana's legal ban "liberticidal."
Paul Stanford, for his part, has vowed to push the law again in 2014, unless the state legislature passes it first.