Before Colorado and Washington voted to legalize marijuana on Election Day 2012, there was a very significant victory in my home state, Oregon. The victory wasn’t a recreational marijuana legalization victory unfortunately, as that would wait until 2014. That’s not to say that there weren’t legalization efforts underway at that time in the Spring of 2012, as there were actually two in Oregon (one that would become Measure 80, and the other was called OMPI, which was derailed due to a hefty fine levied on the campaign by then Secretary of State, and now Governor, Kate Brown).
I was sitting in my house with Jay Smoker when I received an e-mail via an activist e-mail group I’m a part of in Oregon. The e-mail was from the late, great Jim Greig, one of the biggest freedom fighters I have ever known. Jim was asking the group if there was any interest in coordinating a citizen effort to oppose anti-medical marijuana candidate Dwight Holton who was running for Oregon Attorney General. The Attorney General race in Oregon often has an interesting twist in that there are often times only Democrats running for the seat, so the race is decided in the primary election in May, and not on the general election in November. 2012 was one of those types of elections.
It was approximately 59 days prior to the primary election day, and Dwight Holton had so much more money than his competitor Ellen Rosenblum it wasn’t even funny. Holton had hundreds of thousands of dollars more in his campaign war chest, which in a primary race in Oregon creates an enormous advantage. Dwight Holton was an establishment candidate, being the son of a former Governor of Virginia and brother to former DNC Chairman Tim Kaine. Dwight Holton was up in the polls by almost double digits, and seemed to be sailing towards an inevitable victory.
That’s when it all started. Oregon’s largest media publication The Oregonian would later refer to it as ‘a schism.’ Dwight Holton made it very clear that he intended to dismantle the Oregon Medical Marijuana Program (OMMP), and it was obvious that he was going to be the first of many candidates like him that would be ran in states that had old medical marijuana programs (Dwight Holton wasn’t from Oregon, he was a transplant from the East Coast from a few years prior to the election).
What happened next was Jay Smoker and I teamed up with Jim Greig, built a couple of anti-Dwight Holton websites, started some anti-Dwight Holton Facebook pages, and started working diligently to unite and mobilize the OMMP community. Members of Oregon Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP) started coming out to debates and taking Dwight Holton to task at his public appearances, reminding him that his desires to roll back marijuana reform in Oregon were harmful for the state, and against the will of Oregon voters. Prominent patients like Jim Greig would speak publicly about what a candidate like Dwight Holton would mean for not just Oregon’s medical marijuana program, but programs across the country. If Dwight Holton won in Oregon, marijuana opponents would no doubt run as many candidates like him in medical marijuana states as possible. It wasn’t exactly rocket science.
And that’s why we fought so hard. We fought for patients like Jim Greig. We fought for common sense and for compassion. We did a great job too. By the time the campaign rolled around, the race had been covered in national publications like the Chicago Sun-Times, CNBC, US World News and Report, and many, many more publications. Remember, this was a primary election. In Oregon. And not even for Governor. I don’t know that such a race has ever been covered by national media. But that’s how awesome the Oregon cannabis community can be when we are united.
59 days before the election ‘the schism’ started. Zoom forward to primary election day, and Ellen Rosenblum went from down almost double digits in the polls to winning in a landslide victory (26% victory margin!). The Oregon reform community stepped up, organized, mobilized, spread the message, united behind Ellen Rosenblum (who embraced the community and still does), and carried out an internet/social media campaign the likes of which wasn’t seen before and hasn’t been seen since in the marijuana world. I actually came across a comment that the late, great Jim Greig posted on the victory article that The Oregonian posted after Dwight Holton was defeated. I almost teared up reading it because I miss Jim Greig a ton (we all do!):
Those were fun times, and I will always cherish the memories from that effort. The reason why I’m reliving these memories is because I recently read an article in Willamette Week which talked about how a Portland attorney has compiled a list of every elected official that voted to ban marijuana in their area. The attorney also compiled when each politician is up for re-election, and which of their opponents was closest to defeating them in the last election. For obvious reasons, I think it goes without saying that I absolutely LOVE that someone compiled such a list. Kudos to attorney Bear Wilner-Nugent and the ‘Reedie’ he hired to compile all of the information.
The time to start holding these anti-marijuana politicians accountable is now. Just as the Oregon marijuana community defeated Dwight Holton, so too can the community defeat many of the politicians on the recently released list (which can be viewed at this link here). I would have thought that Oregon politicians would remember the story of Dwight Holton, but it sounds like many of them need a reminder that Oregonians want sensible politicians, not reefer madness supporters. If you need help organizing an effort in your area, shoot me an e-mail and I’ll see what I can do to help!