In a (hit) piece published in the Willamette Week, Nigel Jaquiss, claims that Judge Ellen Rosenblum’s campaign for Oregon Attorney General has been funded by “drug money” and that she has demonstrated a “willingness to pander to the marijuana crowd.” Both of these accusations are unfair mischaracterizations of the facts. Portland’s premier alternative weekly is co-owned by Ms. Rosenblum’s husband and the publication took some heat for providing her free ad space during her race for the Democratic nomination while otherwise staying mum during the primary campaign. It seems that the publication may be trying to compensate for any perceived favoritism, but this story, in my opinion, goes too far.
Judge Rosenblum never pandered to the cannabis community. The cannabis community flocked to her campaign because her opponent, Dwight Holton, had led raids against Oregon medical cannabis providers and sent threatening letters to medical marijuana organizations across the state as US Attorney. As a candidate for Oregon Attorney General, Mr. Holton made the fateful mistake of calling the Oregon Medical Marijuana Program a “train wreck” and the rest is Oregon political history. While Mr. Holton’s actions and statements were enough to galvanize the medical marijuana community, Ms. Rosenblum’s position on marijuana, vowing to treat minor cases as a low law enforcement priority so that she could prioritize law enforcement resources towards serious crimes, certainly elevated her among cannabis activists. However, Ms. Rosenblum never pandered to the “marijuana crowd,” she simply took reasonable, mainstream positions to support the Oregon Medical Marijuana Act and to prioritize serious and violent crime over minor marijuana prosecutions—positions favored by a super-majority of Democrats and a majority of all Oregon voters.
The campaign donations from the Drug Policy Alliance, National Cannabis Coalition (through our American Victory PAC), Citizens for Sensible Law Enforcement and other drug law reform activists wasn’t “drug money,” but money from concerned citizens who want elected officials to follow the will of the voters and to prioritize law enforcement resources effectively. Using “drug money” brings to mind Mexican drug cartels and organized crime.
Not only does Nigel Jaquiss conflate donations from activists with “drug money,” but also implies that, as Attorney General, Rosenblum won’t be able to ethically conduct her job as she will be influenced by the campaign donations. This is a slanderous accusation to make against someone who has spent decades practicing law and ruling from the bench. To think that Judge Rosenblum is going to morph into some crony-loving political hack is simply ludicrous. If Dwight Holton would have won (I shudder as I type), would Mr. Jaquiss been wondering if Mr. Holton would treat law enforcement and district attorneys with favoritism because they overwhelmingly supported him? Somehow I doubt it.
Judge Rosenblum is set to be sworn-in as interim Oregon Attorney General on Friday, June 29, becoming the first female to hold the office in state history. The firsts of any group are usually scrutinized pretty harshly and subjected to criticism that wouldn’t be flung at other, more established demographics. Thus, it is unfortunate that Ellen Rosenblum already has to battle the stigma associated with a woman occupying the top law enforcement position in the state, but also has to be subjected to scurrilous accusations because she was supported by drug law reformers putting their money behind a candidate who represented their views more than the opponent.
Anthony Johnson is the executive director of the National Cannabis Coalition and our parent organization, the American Victory Coalition. He also serves as Vice President on the Board of Directors for the patient advocacy non-profit Oregon Green Free. As President of the University of Missouri Law School ACLU Chapter, Anthony co-authored the measures that legalized medical cannabis possession and decriminalized personal possession for all adults within the city limits of Columbia, Missouri. After passing the Oregon Bar, Anthony practiced criminal defense for two years before working full time in the political field to help improve and protect civil liberties, including as co-author and chief petitioner of Oregon Measure 74, an attempt to legalize licensed and regulated medical cannabis dispensaries.