Ellen Rosenblum's embrace of the medicinal pot community—increasingly a centerpiece in her run to serve as Oregon's next attorney general—is looking increasingly shrewd (at least, tactically) with less than a week to go before ballots are due.
Drug Policy Action, a national group that helped lobby for Oregon's 1998 medicinal pot law, just announced a $70,000 contribution, saying Rosenblum "supports the rights of Oregonians who are medical marijuana patients to have safe and legal access to their medicine." That cash will go a long way toward helping Rosenblum afford a statewide ad campaign, and it would come on top of pro-Rosenblum ads sponsored by other pro-pot groups, including the American Victory Coalition. The gift also comes as polls in the race, reported by the Oregonian last night, show what's, essentially, a statistical dead-heat (or maybe a slight-to-decent Rosenblum lead.
Pot's become one of the few issues clearly separating Rosenblum from her only rival in the race, former acting US Attorney Dwight Holton. Holton, in his federal job, earned the ire of medicinal pot advocates by targeting pot growers and then fanned those flames out on the stump when he called Oregon's pot laws a "trainwreck." Rosenblum, seizing on the political opportunity created by that rage, has promised to rank enforcement of mere pot possession lower on her list of priorities.
Still, obligatory words of support for Rosenblum aside, you can't help but get the sense that the pot community would support anyone who wasn't Holton. The statement from DPA announcing the gift spends more time warning voters about Holton.
Dwight Holton’s hostility to this landmark Oregon law is unacceptable. As a federal prosecutor and as a candidate for attorney general, Holton has made it clear that he does not respect Oregon’s medical marijuana patients and providers. We will not stand by and let Holton seize a new platform to undermine and attack a program that Oregon voters passed and continue to strongly support.
Pot money has been key into helping Rosenblum eat into Holton's sizable fundraising lead—something he's built with a lot of donations from friends and associates out of state and also through the backing of state prosecutors, cops, and unions. According the O, Holton's now looking to Rosenblum's stance against her, in fundraising pleas to his own backers.
More national weed money is coming in for Ellen every day," the Holton memo read. "It is surprising that someone who has spent the last 22 years as a judge is willing to sacrifice her legal credibility by effectively promising not to enforce the law if she's elected attorney general — but that's precisely what Ellen has done.
Of course, we didn't see it quite that way when we endorsed Rosenblum.
Two things tipped our choice—and neither had anything to do with Rosenblum having worked and lived in Oregon way longer than Holton. The first is Rosenblum’s more nuanced approach to medicinal marijuana. Rosenblum has said she’d prioritize other crimes over marijuana and has found herself (even if it’s all just been a grab for national marijuana lobby cash) in a position to foster enough trust in patients and providers to make meaningful changes in the legal gray area where shady dispensaries have begun to thrive.
Holton, backed by district attorneys and law enforcement officials from all across the state, will have a harder time doing that. He carries a lot of baggage stemming from his federal job, which made him play the role of the heavy, and he did himself no favors by inflaming the medicinal pot advocates by calling Oregon’s pot laws a “trainwreck.” In our interview, he insisted he supports the state’s pot law—but we worry all the same about how he’ll enforce and interpret it.
Get the best of the Mercury each week in your inbox!