September 24, 2012 in Region

Donors are keeping distance from Oregon pot campaign

Associated Press

PORTLAND – Pro-marijuana donors with deep pockets are pouring millions into legalization measures on the ballot in Washington and Colorado, but they appear to be bypassing a similar pot campaign in Oregon.

Marijuana legalization advocates connected with billionaire donors George Soros and Peter Lewis say the Oregon measure doesn’t appear as politically attractive as it is in the two other states, the Oregonian reported. In Washington, two recent polls show a majority favoring legalization.

Oregon’s Measure 80 has not polled nearly as well, which is a “cause for concern and a disincentive” to donate money, Ethan Nadelmann, a prominent national opponent of the nation’s drug laws, told the newspaper. He heads Drug Policy Action, a New York-based nonprofit that donated $715,000 in Washington and another $90,000 in Colorado.

Law enforcement officials opposing marijuana legalization in Oregon eyed the big dollars from national pot advocates and expected to be heavily outspent this year. But Measure 80 is shaping up to be a low-dollar affair, the newspaper reported.

“We’re trying to bring that money, but we haven’t been successful so far,” said Paul Stanford, Measure 80’s sponsor who owns a chain of medical marijuana clinics around the country. “They say our poll numbers aren’t that great.”

Soros, who made his fortune in currency trading, and Lewis, who founded Progressive Insurance, have together poured millions of dollars into revamping drug laws.

Nadelmann declined to talk about the specifics of the Oregon measure, but he spoke enthusiastically about Washington’s marijuana measure, how carefully it was drafted and how it has attracted extensive in-state donations and endorsements.

“Seattle is the only place in America where every member of the city council, the mayor, the city attorney, the former U.S. attorney and the former head of the FBI (in Seattle) all support the initiative,” he told the Oregonian. “That’s remarkable. I mean, not even San Francisco can say that.”

Washington’s Initiative 502 has so far raised $3 million. Besides the $715,000 from Nadelmann’s group, the campaign has also received $821,000 from Lewis and $450,000 from travel writer Rick Steves and his company.

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