kate brown oregon marijuana
Ending Marijuana Prohibition

Will Oregon’s New Governor Implement Marijuana Legalization As It Was Approved By Voters?

kate brown oregon marijuana
(image via usatoday.com)

As of yesterday at 10 am, Oregon has a new Governor. Kate Brown became Oregon’s Governor after John Kitzhaber was forced to resign amid a lot of controversy. It was a sad day for Oregon, but from a purely marijuana activist standpoint, I wasn’t too sad to see Kitzhaber step down. During the 2014 Election Oregon voters approved Oregon Measure 91, which was very well written and had specific provisions included. For some reason former Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber didn’t think those provisions mattered, and for that matter the will of Oregon voters didn’t matter, because he was seeking to alter the initiative drastically before it was implemented.

John Kitzhaber wanted to merge the medical marijuana program in Oregon with the recreational program, which was something the initiative was very specific about, and stated no less than three times in the initiative that the Oregon Medical Marijuana Program would be unaffected by Measure 91. It’s a big provision that resulted in a lot of people voting for the initiative that were on the fence about it. Kitzhaber also wanted to reduce the possession limit in the initiative. I, along with all of the other ‘yes’ votes, voted for Measure 91 because it allowed certain possession limits.

John Kitzhaber and others at the Oregon capital tried to make it sound like voters approved marijuana legalization in general, and didn’t care about the details. That couldn’t be further from the truth, proven by the fact that the same Oregon voters rejected a marijuana legalization initiative in 2012 because it was poorly written without possession limits. We didn’t vote on marijuana legalization in general, we voted for marijuana legalization because it was a well crafted initiative that had provisions we liked.

So how will Oregon’s new Governor approach the marijuana legalization rule making process? Kate Brown is progressive on a lot of things, but there is at least one time in her career that she cracked down hard on marijuana reform, which could provide some insight into how she will view marijuana policy now that she is Governor. During the 2012 Election in Oregon, during which a marijuana legalization initiative made the ballot (Measure 80), there was another, better initiative trying to get on the ballot. Initiative 24 was a campaign that I was helping with. It had solid funding – the same funding source that Oregon’s successful medical marijuana initiative from 1998 was built on. The initiative was gathering more signatures than Measure 80, and polled better.

But the second initiative ran into a huge roadblock at a critical juncture of the signature gathering phase of the election. Kate Brown issued by far the largest election fine ever levied by the State of Oregon, which instantly derailed the initiative. Per Oregon Live:

Oregon elections officials slapped a $65,000 fine on the chief petitioner of a marijuana legalization measure, saying he violated the state’s constitutional prohibition against paying a bounty for each signature collected.

That’s the largest penalty ever issued by the secretary of state’s office for violating the requirement that petitioners be paid by the hour. Officials say they are continuing to investigate other possibile (sic) violations by the chief petitioner, Robert Wolfe, and that he could face further fines.

Before Monday’s action, the largest penalty issued for a violation of the pay-per-signature ban was $10,900, issued in 2008.

Would Initiative 24 have succeeded on Election Day 2012? I think so, based off of the polling results I saw and the strong campaign team I saw behind the scenes. Obviously we will never know for sure. But I have always had a bad taste in my mouth ever since the campaign was derailed. The day after the 2012 Election, a long time, respected marijuana activist from Oregon pointed out at a meeting that the signature gathering issues that Initiative 24 was fined for were definitely occurring with the Measure 80 campaign, while there was just mere speculation with the Initiative 24 campaign.

Yet Kate Brown chose to go after the initiative that had a better chance of winning, and went after it hard. Why? While there’s no way to know for sure, I have always felt that it was a very strategic move by Kate Brown to try to derail marijuana legalization altogether. I feel that Kate Brown purposely targeted the better initiative to derail it, and allowed Oregon Measure 80 to proceed because she knew it wouldn’t pass due to being so poorly written and had next to no campaign running to support it. Then other politicians at the capital could point to Oregon Measure 80’s failure as a sign that Oregon voters didn’t want legalization at all, and then could fail to act, which is exactly what happened.

Fortunately, two years later Oregon voters did pass a marijuana legalization initiative, one that is better than both of the 2012 initiatives. But it still makes me wonder just what type of Governor we are going to see in regards to marijuana policy. Will Kate Brown uphold the will of the voters, and fight to implement Oregon Measure 91 as it was passed? Kate Brown claims all the time that she is her to carry out the voter’s will, and now she has the opportunity to back those words up with actions. I truly hope that we don’t see her go the Kitzhaber route, and start calling for lower possession limits, a merging of the OMMP with the recreational industry, and who knows what else. That would be a sad day for Oregon, which is a state that has already had enough sad days lately.

  • Be careful of biased reporting. One falsehood places every Truth suspect.

    Did Wolfe place bounty upon signatures: Yes or No.
    Upholding proper conduct – especially the Oregon Constitution as our foundation – should be just. And if Wolfe was fined for improper conduct we cannot malign those who seek to protect the peoples of the state from a conduct established on greed and power.

    Buying the vote is not democracy.

    Let us see how she acts *then* judge accordingly. And remember: there will be an election. She is not in this position forever.

    Peace.

  • Jetdoc

    Oregonians need to do what AZ voters did in 98. BECAUSE AZ voters passed Medical marijuana in 94 and the Legislature gutted it. So we passed it AGAIN in 96 and the Legislature gutted it AGAIN. So in 98 AZ voters passed “The AZ Voter Protection Act”. Which states that “Any Initiative passed by the people, must be enacted as written. Any changes to the Initiative requires 2/3 Majority in BOTH chambers. THEN, the changes can in no way restrict the program. ALL changes must be for the furtherment of the Initiative”

    • Jordan Shorette

      Very good idea

      • Jetdoc

        It can be BOTH good and bad. Because as you go, you’ll find things that NEED changed. You’ll find ways to fix problems that arise, that weren’t foreseen when written. It’s virtually IMPOSSIBLE to obtain 2/3 Majority in BOTH Chambers, to FIX those problems. So the downside is… You’re stuck with the way it was written. The only way the people can change it is to re vote the whole initiative with the changes in it. That’s dangerous, especially with Cannabis.

        • Jordan Shorette

          Thats why Its best to vote for the right bill and not any for the sake of legalization. You make more good points tho

  • stellarvoyager

    I am willing to give her the benefit of the doubt for now, unless she specifically does something as governor to make me think otherwise. The signature gathering issues may very well be completely unrelated to marijuana, and may just have to do with the fact that the signature gatherers did not follow the law. In the past, Oregon has had problems with backers of terrible initiatives using signature gatherers who were paid by the signature, so she may have wanted to be consistent in setting a precedent about enforcing those rules for everyone. It should be noted that she did not interfere at all with measure 91 getting on the ballot, which signals to me that the 2012 case was more about the technical details than being ideologically-driven.

    I am cautiously optimistic about Kate Brown until I have reason to believe otherwise. I read some comments on the measure 91 facebook page that said that she supports medical marijuana, so if that is true, that is very encouraging. Let’s give her a chance, but also make our position known clearly. All signs indicate that she wants to be governor in 2016, so defying the wishes of 56%+ of Oregon voters would be a risky and divisive move on her part, in terms of her future political career. Progressives are her base, and progressives supported measure 91 at rates upwards of 80%.

    • Bongstar420

      The Governor can’t do anything but sign a bill the legislator passes. The only people their positions might offend are the heavy users.

  • Bongstar420

    You are correct, CRRH failed because due to lack of restrictions. M91 succeeded, not because the restrictions were ideal, but because they were good enough to make social conservatives feel that the heavy users wouldn’t increase substantially due to a free for all.

    M91 was better because it appeased social moderates and conservatives that do not consume cannabis to any appreciable extent. Kitzhabers claims were inline with that voters block.

    • stellarvoyager

      So “social moderates” voted for measure 91’s 8-ounce possession limits because they really wanted Kitzhaber’s one-ounce possession limits? Yeah, that makes a lot of sense.

      • Bongstar420

        Nope. They voted for it to fight the black market, not because they actually wanted it to be that way. Its called being practical. Since they don’t smoke (yes, most people don’t consume cannabis), why would any limitation otherwise matter at all? It wasn’t a liberty vote; otherwise we would have nullified the Controlled Substances Act.

        • stellarvoyager

          Making it harder for people to grow their own cannabis and keep their harvest will only help the black market. Kitzhaber’s idea was the exact opposite of practical, if fighting the black market is the goal.

          • Bongstar420

            Because allowing people to produce more than they can consume some how discourages them selling those excesses…..

            4 plants= an easy 4oz per month unless you suck at growing. I am at the top of the list of heavy users and more than 2oz a month is not possible to do responsibly.

            Is that why CRRH has unlimited personal production- because that would end the black market?

            Ya, Kitzhaber is all like, “Shit, how will we keep the black market around with people being allowed to grow their own?” We all know this is just to keep prices up for his little gf that poisoned the well for his political career.

    • Anonymous

      No, M91passed because it consistently and with great skill LIED to voters making it sound like all weed use would be “taxed and regulated.” Anyone registering on 7/1?

  • johndenton46

    I lived for over a decade each in Washington, Oregon, and California.

    Oregon is doing it right. The neo-liberals in Wash St are demonstrating how not to legalize cannabis . Oregon has been, if sometimes imperfect, thoughtful toward the weed-legal voters. CA will benefit from its predecessor.

    I sat next to Brown at a Merkley phone bank in ’08 and she said nothing about my weed scent. And I sense that she knows more now like the rest of us. She is not a power freak or a money freak. Kitzhaber was a somber man, distant toward the public (troubled). Brown won’t be a drag, but she will seriously administer.

    • Nathaniel

      Here comes the push from those that thought the legalization movement was just a “fad”. I have a feeling the fight is going to be decidedly unique from region to region, as certain judges are going to way in in favor of federal law while others will side with states’ rights.
      I don’t know how to accurately assess how much weight each case will hold if legalization starts to lose in courts of law.

  • Nathaniel

    So a closeted marijuana opponent is taking over the reigns, eh? Let’s see how much the new governor respects the will of the people. I have little faith she will do the right thing, but we can still hold out hope.

  • Bird

    Stupid question but is there a way to make it look like the marijuana majority was responcible for unseating the Gov for his saying he was going to toy with the messure. That would really put the fear into the prohibitionists.

  • Will Gov Brown pardon people now incarcerated for possession which is now legal?