The politics of marijuana are going to get a lot more complicated.
Paul Stanford, a longtime marijuana activist whose legalization effort, Measure 80, failed in 2012, yesterday filed an initiative petition for 2014, seeking to change the constitution to legalize pot.
During the current legislative session, powerful interests from around the country came to Oregon to move towards the kind of legalization they won in Washington and Colorado last year. Broadly speaking, such funders as hedge fund billionaire George Soros and Progressive Insurance founder Peter Lewis are looking for a l path towards legalization here and have hired top legal and communications help to achieve that goal. Lawmakers considered legalization this session in House Bill 3371 but it has always been clear they would defer to a vote of the people in either 2014 or 2016.
Stanford has a long history in the marijuana advocacy world, but he's a controversial figure who has twice declared bankruptcy and in 2011, pleaded guilty to failure to file a tax return. His financial challenges may not be relevant to the question of whether marijuana should be legal but are not the kind of accomplishments likely to please advisors to Soros and Lewis.
There's no guarantee that he'll get the signatures he needs but part of the problem advocates faced in 2012 was that there were two competing marijuana measures, and although one ultimately failed to make the ballot, the competing messages caused voter confusion.
Stanford says he's now working cooperatively with the national funders who supported legalization in other states in 2012 and that he filed the ballot initiative "at their behest."
Stanford says the representatives of outside money were skeptical that his 2012 initiative could make the ballot and when it did, he was tapped out and could not afford polling to show that it had a good chance of passing. After the lightly-funded measure failed by a surprisingly close 53 percent to 47 percent margin last November, Stanford says, those funders were willing to sit down and talk with him about moving forward in Oregon.
Now, he says, he is cooperating with the team that includes the New York-based Drug Policy Alliance to push for legalization in Oregon.
"I have no intention of throwing a monkey wrench into anything," Stanford says. "I plan to work with others to make it happen."