Campaigns for, against pot legalization heat up

Measure 91 is the ballot measure to legalize marijuana in Oregon

An undated photo inside a Washington state marijuana retail business. (KOIN 6)
An undated photo inside a Washington state marijuana retail business. (KOIN 6)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN 6) — At the same time the Democratic Party of Oregon gave its formal blessing to legalize marijuana, Oregon sheriffs and district attorneys are teaming up to back efforts to oppose the drug’s legalization.

Opponents of legalizing marijuana said Wednesday that they’re slowly but surely joining forces to battle the $2.3 million worth of advertisements set to air in favor of legalization.

“We won’t be able to compete with their $2.3 million worth of advertising, but we’re gonna have a lot of grass root support,” said Darrell Fuller with the Sheriff’s Association.

Fuller added the association anticipates eventually having enough money to back their campaign with a media presence as well, but to date, they have nothing in their coffers.

On the other hand, Vote Yes on 91 has more than $1.5 million.

“The biggest opposition is getting the word out to people,” said Peter Zuckerman with New Approach Oregon, which is behind Vote Yes on 91.

Zuckerman said treating marijuana use as a crime has failed and coalitions, such as the Sheriff’s Association, need to accept that.

“There are more important things for law enforcement resources to be focused on…and it’s time for a new approach. And a growing number of Oregonians are open to the case, and we are going to fight for every vote,” Zuckerman said.

The fight to legalize marijuana also gained the official support of the Democratic Party of Oregon on Wednesday.

The party announced its positions on all seven 2014 ballot measures. Chairman Frank Dixon said in a statement that a large majority of Democrats now support legalization, and Measure 91 takes “the right approach” to regulating the drug.

Democrats also supported measures requiring labels for genetically modified foods and granting driving privileges to people who can’t prove they’re legally in the United States.

Democrats came out against only one measure. It would replace the current Republican and Democratic primaries with a top-two system that advances the top vote-getters regardless of party.

The party’s official positions are determined by about 300 party leaders.

Meanwhile, opponents continue to point out the downsides if marijuana were to be legalized.

“Fatalities are on the rise in Washington after they legalized marijuana,” said Matt Shirtcliff with the Oregon District Attorneys Association.

A spokesperson for the association said some members plan to join a “Marijuana Education Tour” that is put on by the same group that recently took out a full-page, anti-marijuana ad in the New York Times.

Anti-drug activist Kevin Sabet will lead the tour, which is funded by a federal grant, through Oregon a month before Election Day and talk about marijuana. The tour is not campaigning against Measure 91.

“Sure it’s around election time, but it’s also to educate the citizens,” said Shirtcliff

Zuckerman said he’s not buying that argument.

“Calling this an education tour is preposterous,” he said. “Taxpayer money should not be covertly used to influence an election.”

The Sheriff’s Association said it plans to launch their anti-marijuana campaign soon after Labor Day.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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