Marijuana Venture: What are the key elements about Measure 91 that give it a better chance of being approved by voters in comparison to 2010’s Measure 80, the last failed attempt to legalize marijuana in Oregon?
Peter Zuckerman: The entire measure is more than 35 pages long, so it is hard to summarize all the differences, but it is completely different from previous measures. For example, it would legalize, regulate and tax marijuana for adults 21 and older in a way that is substantially similar to beer and wine.
Previous measures did not do that. The tax money generated would go to schools, police, drug treatment, drug prevention and mental health programs. Previous measures did not do that. Measure 91 has stricter limits than previous marijuana measures. To craft the measure, we consulted with everyone from tax experts to drug experts to parents to law enforcements to legislative lawyers to the governor’s office. The measure went through more than 50 drafts. We believe this measure is a good way forward, and that will help us pass it. Please check it out yourself at http://voteyeson91.com/.
MV: This is obviously not the first attempt to legalize marijuana in Oregon. Why is the timing right this time around?
Zuckerman: We are going to fight for every vote, but a growing majority of Oregonians support a new approach to marijuana and are open to Measure 91. Simply put, more and more people are coming to understand how treating marijuana as a crime has failed and that Measure 91 is a better way forward. In the last decade, more than 99,000 Oregonians have been arrested or cited for marijuana. In addition to the financial cost, it’s a distraction for police who could be focusing on more important issues, like violent crimes. Furthermore, being arrested for a small amount of marijuana is traumatic, and it gives people a record that follows them around every time they apply for a job, try to get a loan, or try to get housing. We’ve spent nearly 40 years and a trillion dollars on the war on drugs. The numbers make it clear it’s not working, and it’s time to try something else.
MV: It often seems medical marijuana proponents are at odds with efforts to legalize marijuana to the general adult population. What — if anything — have New Approach Oregon and Measure 91 done to appease both groups?
Zuckerman: One major thing we’ve done is retain the medical marijuana program. Measure 91 will not impact the Oregon Medical Marijuana Program in any way. It will stay the same. The only thing that will change is that research on the benefits of medical marijuana will be easier to conduct once marijuana becomes legal. Right now, too little research is done, but we have an opportunity to change that.
MV: What has Yes on 91 learned from Washington and Colorado?
Zuckerman: We have the advantage of going third and have learned a tremendous amount from the states where a legal, regulated and taxed approach has already taken affect. We’ve taken the best of the laws from Washington and Colorado and tailored Measure 91 to fit specifically with Oregon. Like Colorado, but unlike Washington, Oregon already has a (regulated) medical marijuana program, so we believe that will help ease the transition because Oregon already has experience with a regulated approach. After Measure 91 passes, the first legal sales of marijuana will not begin until the first half of 2016, so Oregon will have time to roll out sensible drug policies in a deliberate way. One key difference between our measure and Washington’s is that we have a much more realistic tax rate that will allow the regulated market to more easily compete with and shrink the black market.
MV: What kind of benefits do you see Measure 91 bringing to Oregon?
Zuckerman: Measure 91 will allow police to focus on more important issues, like stopping violent crimes. It will reduce the power of drug cartels, which receive tons of money because of black market marijuana sales and use some of that money to commit human rights atrocities. It will make it easier to do research on marijuana to discover more about its medical benefits. And it will generate money for essential public services like schools.
MV: What can people do, both inside and outside Oregon, to help ensure Measure 91 gets enough votes to be approved in the November election?
Zuckerman: We can’t win this without help. For people out of state, every donation makes a difference, and a victory in Oregon is crucial to keep up our movement’s momentum. Please go to voteyeson91.com/donate. For Oregonians, we also need donations and people who can share their stories by going to voteyeson91.com/share-your-story.
MV: I’m sure the message to Oregonians is “get out and vote.” What else can you convey to local voters about the importance of making their voice heard?
Zuckerman: Before we can get out the vote, Oregon voters need to make sure they are registered – and many people think they are when they’re not. If you’ve moved since the last election and haven’t re-registered, you are automatically removed from the voter registration rolls because of our vote-by-mail system. To register to vote, go to the Oregon Secretary of State’s website. I’ve seen elections won or lost, so don’t just register yourself. Register your friends and get involved with the campaign. Now is the time to win sensible drug policies in Oregon, and we need your help.