It's not everyday that a state's largest media outlet tells the state's legislature that they "shouldn't pass up their chance to determine how legalization would work." But that's exactly what happened yesterday when The Oregonian's Editorial Board published an article with those exact words. Oregon House Bill 3371 was passed out of the Judiciary Committee this last week. Oregon House Bill 3371 would tax and regulate marijuana like alcohol. It brings me great joy to see an article like this at the same time that the Oregon Legislature is currently working on a bill. Public opinion is on our side, traditional media now appears to be on our side, and hopefully the Oregon Legislature is taking note of all of it.
The Oregonian article was not without it's jabs towards the Oregon Medical Marijuana Program, which I could have done without. And the Editorial Board continues to use the term 'pot' instead of cannabis, which I could have also done without coming from them (it always sounds like a bash from traditional media for some reason). But the article was full of other language that was very supportive, urging the Oregon Legislature to not pass up this opportunity. "Following the defeat last fall of the easily ridiculed Measure 80, the movement to legalize marijuana in Oregon has taken a more sober tack. A coalition of advocates has approached the Legislature and said, in effect, help us do this. It would be a mistake to ignore them." The Oregonian article stated.
Yes, Oregon Measure 80 failed in 2012. However, it was defeated by a small margin. There was virtually no financial backing for the initiative, and the bill was not vetted properly. What Oregon voters were essentially asked was 'do you want to legalize marijuana in an unlimited capacity, yes or no?' Knowing those facts, I'm surprised that Oregon Measure 80 did as well as it did. Roughly 47% of Oregon voters said yes to the initiative. What if a solid public awareness campaign was waged during the election? Would we have received the roughly 3% of swing voters that would have put the initiative over the top? What if the initiative had better language that was based on polling? What if the initiative, even poorly written, had even 1/5th of the campaign contributions that Washington and Colorado did? Would it still have lost? I don't think so. Prohibitionists can claim that Oregon voters don't want legalization, but that is not accurate. What Oregon voters want is a better vetted proposal, which I feel is clearly laid out in Oregon House Bill 3371.
I like that The Oregonian's Editorial Board recognizes that the winds of change are upon us, and that marijuana legalization in Oregon is inevitable. For so long Oregon media outlets, including and especially The Oregonian, seemed unwilling to even consider the possibility. However, things have changed, and reality seems to be setting in. "Securing even a simple majority would be a challenge, as pot legalization is a hot potato for most lawmakers. Nevertheless, a little thing known as reality provides a good argument for breaking out the oven mitts and bacon bits and getting to work." The Oregonian article stated.
The article was the first time that New Approach Oregon released their polling, which I had the privilege of reading a handful of months ago. The polling results were 'astounding' according to The 'O' (as we call it here in Oregon). "Many Oregonians believe legalization is on the way, according to a recent poll commissioned by New Approach Oregon. An astounding 81 percent of likely voters told pollsters that pot will be legal here "sooner or later." A more modest, but still noteworthy, 50 percent of those polled support legalization, according to Davis, Hibbitts & Midghall, which conducted the survey." The Oregonian article stated.
Now, more than ever before, is the time for the citizens of Oregon to put the pressure on the Oregon Legislature. Call your legislator and remind them that marijuana is safer than alcohol and tobacco. Echo the words of The Oregonian's Editorial Board. Echo the results of the New Approach Oregon poll. Ask legislators if they want to be on the right, or wrong, side of history. Polling is clear - marijuana legalization is supported by a majority of Oregonians. Generations of Oregonians will look back on this time and ridicule legislators that weren't brave enough to do what's right. Does your legislator want to be someone that carries out the will of the people, or continues to bury their head in the sand? Go get 'em Oregon!