August 27th, 2013 5:32 pm | by NIGEL JAQUISS News | Posted In: Drugs, Legislature, Activism

Powerful Group Aims Marijuana Measure at 2014 Ballot

lede_weedoregon_3916IMAGE: Kiki Winters

The prospects for marijuana legalization in Oregon are looking stronger.

Anthony Johnson, the director of the advocacy group New Approach Oregon, tells WW today that his group will pursue a ballot measure next year.

"Our coalition is moving forward with a legalization measure to end cannabis prohibition in Oregon in the 2014 election," Johnson says.

The decision by New Approach Oregon to back a ballot measure is key because it works closely with the Drug Policy Alliance, a national group that helped pass legalization measures in Colorado and Washington last year.

During the 2013 legislative session, New Approach introduced House Bill 3371, a legalization measure written with help from Drug Policy Alliance. 

The advocates teamed up with a high-powered collection of Oregon political insiders who had not previously worked the marijuana issue, including the Portland law firm Schwabe Williamson & Wyatt; the Oxley and Associates lobbying firm; and Gard Communications.

Even with all that muscle, lawmakers declined to refer the measure to voters as proponents had hoped, and it was unclear if New Approach Oregon would move to the ballot.

Paul Stanford, a long-time legalization advocate whose legalization measure failed 53 percent to 47 percent in 2012, filed two ballot measures in June for next year. Stanford struggled to raise money last time around.

Money should not be a problem for New Approach Oregon if it continues to work with national groups.

Billionaire hedge fund manager George Soros and Progressive Insurance founder Peter Lewis, among others, provided funding in Colorado and Washington. Johnson says he expects New Approach's ballot measure will draw from the laws now on the books in both of those states.

"DPA will help us draft the measure that we'll move forward in 2014," Johnson says.

It is unclear whether Stanford will still pursue his ballot measures. He was not immediately available for comment.
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