Younger voters – not surprisingly – are the key to many elections dealing with monumental social change. To understand this, one need not look any further back than the election of Barack Obama as the first African-American President of the United States. Regardless of my feelings – or those of any other cannabis activist – about his policies, the historical importance of his election is undeniable. Young voters flocked to Obama’s historic campaign: 66% of voters between the ages of 18 and 29 voted for him; John McCain, on the other hand, managed to muster only 31% of the youth vote. In 2008, 51% of young voters turned out to vote in the presidential election. In 2010, only 24% of young people turned out, helping lead to the Tea Party wave that swept elections across the country.
The 2012 elections may once again hinge on the participation of young people. One of the first important tests for the youth vote will be the Oregon Democratic nomination for Attorney General, written about extensively on this site. Ellen Rosenblum, the favored candidate of the Oregon cannabis community has stated that she supports the Oregon Medical Marijuana Act and believes that minor marijuana cases should not be the focus of Oregon’s law enforcement resources. Her opponent Dwight Holton, on the other hand, helped lead the federal crackdown against Oregon medical marijuana providers as a US Attorney, called Oregon’s medical law a “train wreck,” and makes no such promises about prioritizing other crimes above minor marijuana offenses.
The last day to vote in the Oregon primary is May 15th and, while young voters will likely be more supportive of Judge Rosenblum, there is a legitimate fear that the youth turnout during this primary election will more closely resemble 2010 mid-term election numbers than the 2008 general election turnout. It is imperative that everyone who cares about common-sense cannabis laws and believes that violent crimes should be prioritized over non-violent cannabis offenses, spread the word about Judge Rosenblum’s candidacy.
The Citizens for Sensible Law Enforcement (CSLE) released a press release today about the importance of the youth vote in electing Judge Rosenblum. The press release included polling that demonstrated that Oregon’s youth vote greatly favors sensible cannabis laws and are not swayed by the Reefer Madness propaganda that has greatly influenced older voters.
CSLE’s work corroborates the results of dozens of polls across the nation. Recent polling sponsored by National Cannabis Coalition and conducted by DHM Research, for instance, reveals that young voters – as well as a super-majority of Oregon Democrats – favor an end to the usual prohibition policies of wasting law enforcement resources arresting, prosecuting and jailing people for cannabis. According to NCC’s poll, 81% of all voters between the ages of 18-34, regardless of party affiliation, agree that “Enforcing the marijuana laws is a waste of police time, resources, and jail space. We should focus police on more important priorities like violent crime.” A whopping 84% of all Democrats – regardless of age – also agree with the statement, realizing that the state of Oregon should not be wasting valuable resources and tax dollars locking up people for cannabis when we have more important issues to tackle. An astounding 91% of Democrats between 18-34 agree that our current cannabis laws are a waste of resources and would like to see our limited resources utilized to tackle more pressing issues. A very strong majority (68%) of all Oregon voters agree.
With polling results such as ours and CSLE’s, it is very likely that Dwight Holton has seen similar polling, and that polls like these are responsible for sparking his backtracking from his previous incendiary comments and generally hostile position toward medical cannabis. However, it appears that cannabis law reformers in Oregon, and elsewhere, have been burnt too many times before to fall for Holton’s sudden about-face.
These cannabis law reformers recognize that Judge Rosenblum’s candidacy is important for Oregon medical marijuana patients and supporters, but also for activists across the country. They understand that we are faced with a unique opportunity to defeat a Drug Warrior who helped lead the federal government’s crackdown against medical marijuana states and elect a supportive candidate whose victory will elevate the clout of the cannabis law reform community across the country. Please do what you can to help Judge Rosenblum in this monumental campaign for Oregon Attorney General.
You can donate directly to Judge Rosenblum’s campaign or agree to volunteer. If you wish, you can donate to NCC, helping us run ads supporting her candidacy through our parent organization’s PAC, the American Victory Coalition PAC. If you lack the time and money to assist this important campaign, then simply do what you can to help spread the word. The future of the Oregon Medical Marijuana Program (and possibly programs across the country) is in our hands.
The full text of the CSLE’s press release:
Holton’s Anti-Medical-Marijuana Stances Out of the Democratic Mainstream
PORTLAND, May 7 – The controversy over marijuana will damage Dwight Holton’s chances to become Oregon’s attorney general, according to a group working for his defeat.
In particular, younger voters, who strongly support proposals to fully end the prohibition on marijuana, could punish Holton for his positions against Oregon’s medical marijuana law. But Holton has trouble with all Democrats on the issue, too.
Bob Wolfe, a director of Citizens for Sensible Law Enforcement (CSLE), said, “Holton’s hostility to medical marijuana in Oregon sends a pretty clear signal to progressive and younger voters. They support our state law and most want marijuana legalized entirely. Holton’s reefer madness is a huge liability.”
Wolfe added, “If younger voters turn out for this primary, Holton is in deep trouble.”
CSLE today released polling crosstabs from a 2011 survey to underscore the power of the marijuana issue among Oregon Democrats and younger voters.
In that survey, voters aged 18-29 (of all party affiliations) rated “medical marijuana” very positively, an average of 70 on a scale of 0-100. Among all registered and likely Democratic voters, medical marijuana earned an average rating of 66, peaking at 74 among self-described “liberal Democrats.”
The April 2011 survey also showed comparable support for ending the prohibition on marijuana completely, as is proposed by Initiative Petition 24, which has more than 110,000 signatures toward qualification for the November 2012 ballot. For instance, 68% of Democrats said they would vote for a constitutional amendment to remove criminal penalties for marijuana for adults over 21 years of age. “Liberal” Democrats were nearly 4-to-1 in favor at 79%. Young voters of all political stripes supported the idea with 62%.
Mid-May primary elections have much lower turnout, often less than 50 percent of all registered voters. Younger voters often skip the primary elections in droves, skewing the electorate much older.
However, every Oregon voter receives a mail ballot, and has two weeks to cast it. CSLE thinks the publicity around marijuana could inspire just enough younger voters to cast ballots this year to make the difference.
Holton’s Opposition to Medical Marijuana Goes Way Back
Holton’s hostility to medical marijuana dates back to his term as interim U.S. Attorney, when he threatened medical marijuana service providers and their landlords with property seizure, warning that medical marijuana “will not be tolerated.” He then led raids on medical marijuana grow sites in Southern Oregon. In March this year, Holton called the state medical marijuana law a “train wreck” and pledged to work with Republicans to gut it.
Holton has recently tried to soften his position, but advocates for the medical marijuana law do not trust him on the issue, and have launched a campaign to defeat Holton in this primary election.
The CSLE campaign against Holton includes radio spots now running statewide and an online campaign.