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AG Race Stirs Weed Debate

The Oregon attorney general primary race between Dwight Holton and Ellen Rosenblum is fraught with complexity and nuance, but for some medical marijuana advocates, the race has boiled down to who’s better on pot.

“Dwight’s Not Right” reads the headline on a press release from Robert Wolfe of Citizens for Sensible Law Enforcement (CSLE), which is sponsoring Initiative Petition 24, which would legalize marijuana for personal use. If the initiative is approved, a ballot measure will go before voters in November.   

The CSLE statement says Holton called the Oregon Medical Marijuana Act (OMMA) a “train wreck” and “is campaigning on his plan to gut it,” but Rosenblum “will support Oregon’s voter-approved medical marijuana program, and says personal marijuana use is the lowest priority for law enforcement.”

But it turns out the two candidates are not very far apart on the issues of both medical marijuana and possession of small amounts of weed. Both candidates were interviewed by EW on this and other topics.

Holton says he has called the OMMA a “train wreck” but he has no intention of “gutting” the program or campaigning on that agenda. He says he would like to see it improved. “We passed this law for very compassionate reasons,” he says. “We were trying to get relief to people who were in desperate need. That’s what the law’s about, and I’ll enforce it and uphold it.”

Holton says when he was the U.S. attorney he “heard from people in the medical marijuana community that they knew patients who could not get access to marijuana, and we know from law enforcement folks that medical marijuana ends up on the black market. So if we are going to maintain the integrity of the program and honor the will of the voters then we ought to look at making it better.”

“Ellen says she’ll make the enforcement of drug trafficking laws a low priority,” he says. “I don’t think it’s appropriate to telegraph law enforcement about what laws you are going to enforce and not enforce. You don’t get to choose. It’s your job to enforce the law.”

Rosenblum says, “I’m not trying to undo the OMMA, I’m trying to make it work so that people have access to the medicine which they consider necessary and which doctors have approved for them. I think that Dwight and I have a difference in approach. He thinks the law is a train wreck, I think the law is a bumpy ride and it’s something we need to work with.”

“I will be enforcing the law, which includes the OMMA,” she says, “but at the same time I will be cracking down on drug rings, on heroin, which is a big thing right now, and it ties in with prescription drug abuse. If people can’t get prescription drugs, they turn to cheaper heroin, and they are dying,”

As for prosecuting possession of small amounts of marijuana, Holton says few in law enforcement see it as a high priority, but “It’s a slippery slope to backdoor legalization. It’s something the voters have spoken on, they rejected it, and we’ll see if they do it again in the fall.”

Meanwhile, Wolfe of the Petition 24 campaign was fined $65,000 this week for repeated violations of the ban on paying signature gathers per signature. Oregon law requires initiative signature gatherers be either volunteers or paid by the hour.