May 18, 2012

Marijuana Advocates Spend Big And Defeat Drug War Proponent In Oregon

Ellen Rosenblum was buoyed by anti-drug war cash.

As we’ve covered before at Republic Report, one of the reasons why marijuana remains illegal and the drug war continues to rage is because special interest groups like police unions and the alcohol industry spend a lot of money to lobby for the drug war.

In Oregon, advocates of medical marijuana and other anti-drug war activists decided that they’d use a similar tactic to fight the crackdown on state medical marijuana laws.

The pro-reform Drug Policy Alliance’s Drug Policy Action, along with other anti-drug war activists, donated big to Democratic attorney general primary candidate Ellen Rosenblum, who wanted to de-prioritize cracking down on pot. The Washington Post reports that anti-drug war cash made up a quarter of the campaign donations to her campaign. Drug Policy Action donated $80,000, and $70,000 more came from marijuana reform supporter John Sperling, head of the parent company of the for-profit University of Phoenix. Oregon law allows unlimited donations to state election campaigns.  Citizens for Sensible Law Enforcement, an independent group, spent $40,000 to advocate for Rosenblum and attack the marijuana policy record of her opponent, interim U.S. attorney Dwight Holton.

Rosenblum defeated Holton, who had been leading the federal crackdown on medical marijuana in the state, and had called Oregon’s liberal medical marijuana law a “trainwreck.”

Altogether, anti-drug war groups spent nearly $200,000 to unseat Holton and to back Rosenblum. “As attorney general, I will make marijuana enforcement a low priority, and protect the rights of medical marijuana patients,” she promised.

We here at Republic Report are strong advocates of campaign finance reform and kicking Big Money out of our politics. While citizens should be able to contribute limited amounts to candidates they support, we don’t think that any group, on any side of an issue, should be able to buy policy with huge donations. But it’s an interesting development that critics of the drug war are starting to pool their money to change policy, much as those who have worked to keep marijuana illegal for decades have been doing. It’s almost as if the drug war crowd got a taste of their own medicine.

UPDATE: I did some more digging and found that marijuana groups weren’t the only ones spending in the campaign. A Political Action Committee (PAC) called “Keep Portland Safe” gave a $2,500 donation to Holton shortly before the election. Who runs this PAC? Scott Westerman is its treasurer and a former police union chief. The Washington County Police Association also gave $2,500 to him this month. Trooper PAC, which represents local police unions, gave $1,000 last month to Holton.  Police unions are major drug war profiteers.

  • Robert Chase

    We should not have to spend money to rid our society of rabid animals like Holton.

  • earllc

    Are these police unions the same ones who are hired to protect the 1%. Thank you for giving them a taste of their own medicine. There is no earthly reason why marijuana should not be legal saved for its connection to industrial hemp which so many industries would not want farmers to grow. Even the police know they are breaking the law (Sect. 21, Controlled Sub. Act) when they destroy ditchweed and act to destroy anything with cannabis attached to the definition.

  • Tillotson

    Just like in “A Brave New World” our Soma is all we’ll have pretty soon…for those that can afford it that is.

  • CatKinNY

    If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em. Good for the legalizers. This is the only way to get anything done anymore, and it’s time the people started playing on the same field as big business and special interests. Can you imagine how much money would be saved on prisons, and generated in taxes, if we simply treated pot like booze and cigarettes?

  • Xmo2rep

    Mr. Dissenter. You seem to be an angry man. Not very well educated except in political rhetoric, but certainly angry. I have no dog in this fight but I cannot understand the purpose of the vicious response you gave to what did seem like a simple, relatively innocuous question. This site is filled with hatred, misinformation, gross speculation, strange linkage , but most of all….opinions. Which means if you have an opinion, put it out there. But is it possible for you to do it in a reasoned and thoughtful manner? At the very least you should meet some people who understand the purpose of discourse. Pick up on being able to disagree and to not find a conspiracy behind every tree. Trust me, you will be happier and it will make reading your “opinions” worth the effort.

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  • David_Rogers_Hunt

    It only costs American citizens a few hundred thousand dollars to influence politicians to interfere with our fundamental personal liberties. How much money would it cost to influence politicians to simply leave us alone? There, literately, isn’t that much money in the world!