• Oregon Attorney General Candidates’ Opposing Views on Cannabis

    by  • March 27, 2012 • Cannabis, Politics

    Supporters of common-sense cannabis law policies in Oregon may have just found their candidate for Attorney General. Candidate Ellen Rosenblum stated in an email to Oregon criminal defense attorney Leland Berger that she does “not see the enforcement of laws against marijuana possession for personal use as an effective use of our limited public safety resources.” Mr. Berger sent an email to Ms. Rosenblum as well as Dwight Holton, her opponent in the Democratic Attorney General primary, asking whether they supported the legal opinion recently released by Oregon Assistant Attorney General David Leath, which stated that Oregon law enforcement should appeal judicial orders to return seized medical cannabis to law-abiding Oregon medical cannabis patients.

    Mr. Berger informed both that he intended to share their responses with the drug law reform and criminal defense attorney communities, unless they requested he not do so. At this time, there has not been a response back from Mr. Holton, while Ms Rosenblum gave this response:

    I strongly support the right of patients to obtain the medicine they need to help them cope with their medical conditions. The voters of Oregon enacted the Oregon Medical Marijuana Act and I support their decision. Additionally, I do not see the enforcement of laws against marijuana possession for personal use as an effective use of our limited public safety resources.

    You asked for my opinion on state laws allowing the return of seized medical marijuana by law enforcement where no crime is determined to have been committed. My preliminary review of the statute indicates that this — the issue of preemption by federal law — is not a matter of settled law. Thus, since the law on the books in Oregon currently requires the return of seized marijuana under certain limited circumstances, as Attorney General, when those circumstances exist, I would not advise law enforcement agencies to refuse to return marijuana to card-holding patients. I intend to study this issue more closely and would certainly appreciate additional information about the legal and social ramifications of the law in question.

    While we wait for Mr. Holton’s answer, his former role as U.S. Attorney would lead us to believe that he would not be in favor of progressive cannabis laws. Mr. Holton sent numerous letters to medical cannabis organizations across the state of Oregon, threatening them with federal prosecution and property forfeiture if they did not stop providing medical cannabis to Oregon’s patient community.

    Not only did Holton lead the charge of the federal government’s recent threats against Oregon medical cannabis card holders, but he has now harshly criticized the Oregon Medical Marijuana Program. The Register-Guard recently covered a debate between the AG candidates in which Holton stated that, Oregon’s medical cannabis law is “a train wreck, putting marijuana in the hands of people, kids, who are not using it for pain management purposes. Of 50,000 card holders, 30,000 got them from 10 clinics. We’ve got a broken system.” On the other (sane) hand, Ellen Rosenblum stated, that she supported the state’s medical cannabis law as it, “provides vulnerable citizens with the medicine they needed to cope with their diagnoses.”

    Dwight Holton, unfortunately, didn’t seem to recognize the will of Oregon’s voters as U.S. Attorney and now he seeks to be the chief law enforcement official in the state while continuing to disrespect the will of Oregon’s voters. Let’s hope that Oregon’s Democratic primary voters elect Ellen Rosenblum as the party’s nominee as she seems to be the only candidate who respects the medical cannabis law passed by a majority of voters over a decade ago.

    UPDATE: Johnny Green at the WeedBlog.com posted his recap of the April 2nd debate between the candidates at Willamette University:

    The moderator made a comment that there were 8 questions from the crowd in regards to marijuana policy, which received a cheer from the crowd. It was by far the most dominate topic of the audience question portion of the debate. Unfortunately, all of the questions were lumped into one ‘meatloaf’ question that allowed the candidates to pick and choose which ones they wanted to include in their answer. I would have liked to see Dwight Holton answer each one of them to get him on the record. The questions included everything from ‘how does prohibition keep marijuana out of the hands of children?’ to ‘how will you protect the safe access to the over 50,000 Oregon medical marijuana patients?’

    Dwight Holton gave a very long winded answer. He used about half the time to explain that marijuana is separate from the drug war. Marijuana supporters might find that interesting considering Dwight Holton tried to attack the Oregon Medical Marijuana Program (OMMP) every chance he had as a federal prosecutor in Oregon. After his flip-floppish answer, Holton very reluctantly stated that the OMMP was voted in by Oregonians, but was also quick to point out that he wouldn’t tolerate it being a ‘front for drug trafficking.’

    Ellen Rosenblum was very straight to the point. She will not focus limited government resources towards marijuana enforcement against patients, and if voters approve an initiative at the ballot box that ends marijuana prohibition, she will respect that. I was delighted when Ellen Rosenblum pointed out that Dwight Holton once referred to the OMMP as a ‘train wreck.’ The crowd wasn’t buying his BS, and I’m glad Ellen pointed out the obvious.


    Anthony Johnson is the executive director of the National Cannabis Coalition and our parent division, the American Victory Coalition. He also serves as a Board Member of Show-Me Cannabis Regulation, an organization working to end cannabis prohibition in Missouri. 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, in 2004. Following law school, Anthony practiced criminal defense for two years before working full time in the political field to help improve and protect civil liberties. You can follow Anthony on Twitter and also friend him on Facebook by following the links below as he posts mostly about civil liberties and politics with dashes of sports, music, movies and whatnot.


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