In the wake of ballot measures legalizing marijuana in Washington state and Colorado, it’s not at all out of the question that Oregon voters will have another shot at legalizing marijuana in this state.
Now, it’s true that Oregon voters just last November rejected another initiative, Ballot Measure 80, which would have legalized marijuana. But our sense is that voters were reluctant to ratify that particular measure because — well, because it was loony.
If there’s a pot-legalization measure on the Oregon ballot in 2014 — and if the measure appears to have been crafted with somewhat more care than went into Measure 80 — our hunch is that the measure will pass.
And Oregon state law on marijuana will lurch into head-on conflict with federal law.
The Obama administration hasn’t given much guidance on this matter to its federal attorneys in Washington state and Colorado after the marijuana votes in those states. In fact, Obama himself said that his administration had “bigger fish to fry” than figuring out strategies to help cut through the thicket of contradictions between state and federal drug laws.
Now, though, it’s likely that the fish Obama famously blew off is just going to get bigger — and there’s the sense, as U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer told our editorial board last week, that the U.S. public is ahead of Congress on this issue. Recent national polls have suggested that, for the first time, a majority of Americans favor legalization of marijuana — and younger Americans are heavily in favor of legalization.
Congress has a bit of a window to try to unravel the growing conflict between state and federal law, but the window is starting to close. Blumenauer, who represents Oregon’s Third District in Multnomah County, pointed to a variety of legislation pending before Congress that could help cut through the bramble.
Some of those measures, such as a bill to clarify that farmers legally can grow industrial hemp, enjoy at least a measure of bipartisan support and frankly are long overdue.
Other measures pending before Congress, such as bills to legalize marijuana at the federal level to the extent it’s legal in each state, obviously are more controversial.
But the bottom line seems increasingly clear: Americans are growing weary of what they see as an increasingly futile war against marijuana. If Congress doesn’t take advantage of this opportunity to lead, Americans will take matters into their own hands, one state at a time.