A former state judge and medical marijuana advocate won an overwhelming victory in an Oregon Democratic primary election on Tuesday night after her opponent, a former U.S. Attorney, became best known for his role in helping raid and shut down medical marijuana dispensaries in states that legally permit them.
Former state judge Ellen Rosenblum’s win basically ensures she will become the state’s first female attorney general in November, as Republicans have not fielded an official candidate.
“I do not believe that prosecuting people for possessing small amounts of marijuana represents the best use of our resources,” her campaign website declares. “A better use of those resources is providing more treatment options for people with drug and alcohol addiction. As Attorney General, I will make marijuana enforcement a low priority, and protect the rights of medical marijuana patients.”
Because of positions like that, Rosenblum enjoyed the support of medical marijuana advocates who attacked her opponent, former federal prosecutor Dwight Holton, over his past enforcement of marijuana laws. According to Oregon’s Statesman Journal, Rosenblum specifically received more than $140,000 in support from the group Drug Policy Action, a PAC created by the Drug Policy Alliance, a leading advocacy group promoting marijuana reforms.
“Dwight Holton’s defeat in the Oregon Attorney General’s race should be taken as a clear and unambiguous message to U.S. Attorneys around the country and to the national Democratic leadership that attacking state-approved medical marijuana programs is not a smart political move,” Jill Harris, Drug Policy Action’s managing director, said in a media advisory. “Drug war rhetoric and tactics will not be tolerated, and organizations like Drug Policy Action will be there to defend patients’ rights to safely access the medicine they need.”
Oregon has more than 50,000 registered medical marijuana patients, and two competing voter initiatives that would completely legalize marijuana for recreational use have recently gathered enough signatures to be considered for ballot access in November.
The election’s outcome may not be a surprise to keen political viewers, even though Holton had originally been expected to run away with the race. That’s because medical marijuana is one of the most popular political causes in the country, even though that fact does not seem to be common political knowledge just yet.
A survey published this week by the Mason-Dixon Polling & Research firm found that large majorities of all political stripes believe the federal government should respect state laws on medical marijuana. Overall, 74 percent said that state laws should be respected, with 75 percent of Democrats and 67 percent of Republicans in agreement. Independents were even more enthusiastic at 79 percent.
President Barack Obama has been more stringent about enforcing federal laws on marijuana than even his predecessor, President George W. Bush. His administration has overseen more than 200 raids on medical marijuana facilities in states where doctors are allowed to recommend the drug — actions that recently drew a rebuke from one of his strongest allies, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA). He’s also told south American leaders, who are currently debating significant drug reforms, that legalization is patently off the table.
In all, a Gallup poll found last year that 50 percent of Americans believe marijuana should be legalized and regulated like alcohol, while 46 percent say it should remain illegal. For contrast, 51 percent of Americans told Gallup last week that they agree with President Obama’s recent endorsement of same sex marriage, and the firm reported a 53 percent overall approval rating for marriage equality in a poll taken last May.
A study published in 2010 by the health journal Lancet ranked alcohol as the worst drug in terms of overall harm to society, even above heroin and crack, while marijuana ranked 8th, just below clinical amphetamine, which is commonly given to children with attention deficit disorder. Marijuana has also been shown to be useful for treating the symptoms of AIDS, cancer treatment, chronic pain and other serious illnesses.
Photo: Courtesy, ellenrosenblum.com.