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Medical marijuana, Measure 11 emerge as big issues in Oregon race for Attorney General candidates Dwight Holton and Ellen Rosenblum April 24, 2012

Posted by FairSentencing in : Current News , trackback

Federal agents raided four southern Oregon marijuana farms in rapid succession early last fall, searching homes, seizing residents’ guns and hauling off hundreds of pot plants.

The show of force shocked Jackson County residents and infuriated many who believe the farms were operating legally under Oregon’s medical marijuana law.

Six months later, the raids and marijuana in general have emerged as a surprise issue in the tight race for Oregon attorney general. A pro-marijuana legalization group has come out strongly for retired Oregon appellate Judge Ellen Rosenblum because it was her opponent, Dwight Holton, then acting U.S. attorney, who authorized the controversial raids.

“Dwight Holton has called our voter-approved law a ‘train wreck’ and is campaigning on his plan to gut it,” said Robert Wolfe, of Citizens for Sensible Law Enforcement. “Holton is openly disrespectful of Oregon voters, and hostile to medical marijuana patients and providers. He would be a disaster as attorney general.”

Pro-marijuana contributors had given about $2,600 to Rosenblum’s campaign as of Friday. Citizens for Sensible Law Enforcement is also running pro-Rosenblum ads on Portland radio stations and is gearing up a print ad campaign as well, Wolfe said.

Identifying oneself with the pot lobby is a high-risk strategy for a would-be attorney general, in effect Oregon’s top law enforcement official. It’s a dramatic contrast to Holton, who cites among his supporters many of Oregon’s district attorneys and sheriffs.

But Rosenblum has embraced her new supporters comparing Oregon’s medical marijuana law to other pioneering state statutes like the bottle bill and assisted suicide measures. She toured a Tigard marijuana dispensary on Sunday. “It makes a huge difference for me to see the collective and to see the way you are responsibly applying the law,” she said to the applause of a gathered crowd.

Holton says he has no intention of gutting the medical marijuana law, which he feels was passed for “compassionate reasons.” But he has a dimmer view of how it’s playing out. “We know from law enforcement officials that marijuana is ending up on the black market,” he said.

More than 55,000 Oregonians, including patients suffering from cancer, AIDs and chronic pain, participate in the state’s medical marijuana system. The law allows medical marijuana patients to have the drug but doesn’t tell them where to get it.

Into that void, entrepreneurs have opened an estimated 50 to 100 medical marijuana outlets around the state, where patients can get pot directly from growers.

The law has generated tension with federal authorities, who still consider possession, purchase, growing and selling pot a crime. Some agree with Holton that pot grown under the auspices of the state program is finding its way to the street.

Rosenblum says Holton is out of touch with Oregon sensibilities on weed. “I will not support hard-ball tactics against medical marijuana providers and will protect the rights of medical marijuana patients,” Rosenblum said. “Pursuing small-time marijuana users or attempting to dismantle the Oregon Medical Marijuana Act would be a waste of public dollars.”

Holton fires right back at Rosenblum, particularly her statement that she will de-emphasize prosecution of minor marijuana possession cases.

“This is not about medical marijuana, it’s about whether we’re going to have an AG who picks and chooses which laws they’re going to enforce,” Holton said. “She’s made it very clear that she does not think there are resources to enforce marijuana laws. It’s entirely inappropriate. It invites lawbreaking.”

Holton’s camp has jumped on the marijuana issue, saying the policy gulf between the two candidates has become the “defining issue” of the campaign.

Wolfe agrees, saying Holton is “out-of-step” with the 400,000 or more recreational pot users in Oregon as well as his party. “He ought to be running as a Republican,” Wolfe said. On Monday, the secretary of state fined Wolfe $65,000 for violating Oregon’s constitution in gathering signatures for the marijuana legalization initiative.

That Holton would emerge as the “law-and-order” candidate in the race is not surprising given his long background as a federal prosecutor. He’s also strived to position himself to the right of Rosenblum on the issue of Oregon’s Measure 11 mandatory-minimum sentencing law.

Prosecutors generally favor mandatory minimum sentences, saying tough sentencing has helped reduce serious crime. But Measure 11 has led to swelling prison populations and enormous increases in the state’s corrections budget.

Last week, the Multnomah County Prosecuting Attorneys Association endorsed Holton, in part, it said because Rosenblum had sent mixed signals about her support of Measure 11.

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1. cary lundgren - July 22, 2012

We the people in the USA are not bad compared to the rest of the world. So why do we lock up more of our own people per capita than any other country? Almost 2 times more than the next highest per capita country!
First time offenders do not need to be locked up for years with minimum sentences and no good time! This is a bigger crime than the offenses committed which put them there!
Already anyone charged with a crime is not going to have a fair trial! How can any average person afford to prove his innocence by fighting the prosecution and its many attorneys with the governments money and payroll? Sure there are public defenders but their budget verses the district attorneys budget is thousands to one, and the prosecutors have all of law enforcement backing them up to prove an individual guilty! What does the individual have on his side to try to prove his innocence? A public paid attorney with a case load so great that they can not even remember one clients name from the next!
Often courts in the USA have a plead guilty rate of 99% as in multnomah co. Most other countries have about a 75% conviction rate which seems a lot more realistic or fair!
People need to scale back these long time mandatory minimums and have the inmates be able to reform by giving them good time as an incentive! Stop allowing a bigger crime by ruining so many young lives by these horrifically long sentences! Some never get a warning or another chance their first time in trouble as an adult and they are locked up for 70 months! Its very unfair and a terrible thing to ruin these young lives rather than giving them a chance to reform and be a positive part of their community!