One of the happiest days of my life was when marijuana legalization was approved for the ballot in 2012. I thought that if the legalization initiative passed, I could finally live in peace in Oregon without having to constantly worry about getting in trouble for marijuana and have to carry around the ‘marijuana scarlet letter.’ That happiness was short lived, as it became very apparent very fast that unlike Colorado and Washington, Oregon wouldn’t be getting any help from national organizations or donors. I understood that these funders and orgs didn’t like Paul Stanford (the Chief Petitioner of the 2012 effort), but I still felt like there should have been more help after ballot access was ensured.
I still feel in my heart of hearts that Oregon could have legalized marijuana in 2012 along with Washington and Colorado. Despite numerous issues, the 2012 effort was within reach of winning on Election Day. Even the most veteran activists in Oregon were surprised that the initiative did as well as it did on Election Day 2012. Fortunately for activists, and the entire State of Oregon, we will get another chance on Election Day 2014. This time around, things are different.
The 2014 effort is better than the 2012 effort in three significant ways. First, unlike in 2012, there is national funding. There has already been more money raised by New Approach Oregon in this election cycle than the 2012 effort did during their entire election cycle. Now that New Approach Oregon has officially qualified for the ballot, I expect even more money to come in, from national donors and from within the state (make a donation at this link here). Secondly, the language of the 2014 initiative is much better than the 2012 initiative. The 2012 initiative had no limits, which is something exit polling showed was a major concern among voters. The 2014 initiative has reasonable limits that have polled very well.
Lastly, the campaign team that is in place leading the 2014 effort is superior to the 2012 campaign. I’m not saying this to knock the 2012 team. The 2012 campaign had virtually no money to work with, and as a result, they couldn’t hire any experts to help the campaign. As my favorite political science professor in college used to say, ‘the two most important things in politics is money, and money.’ No money equals no campaign staff except volunteers. The 2014 campaign team includes experts in their fields who are highly sought after in political circles. This is going to result in a much better campaign in 2014 compared to 2012.
I have already heard marijuana reform opponents brush off Oregon’s 2014 effort and try to make claims like, ‘voters already turned down legalization in 2012 in Oregon, and they should do the same thing in 2014.’ I would say to these people that Oregon’s 2014 is not the same as 2012. It’s something that the 2014 organizers tried to point out to the Oregon Legislature when they gave them the chance to legalize marijuana themselves. But, the Legislature made it sound like since Oregon voters turned down legalization in 2012 that there wasn’t support for reform. I wonder how those same legislators feel today now that the 2014 effort has qualified for the ballot. I bet they feel like they missed an opportunity to have their say, which is something that was pointed out to them over and over.
Polling is favorable to the 2014 effort, as is funding, and the campaign staff at New Approach Oregon. Oregon, thank goodness, is getting a second chance to do this thing, and I’m hopeful that I’ll be attending a victory party on Election Day 2014. To the national orgs and funders that shunned Oregon in 2012, this is your chance to make things right. Go get ’em Oregon!