He claims to have gathered 115,000 signatures for IP-24 and hopes to secure about 184,000, which would put it well above the number needed to place the initiative on the ballot in November (Holton's campaign was quick to point out that Wolfe was recently fined $65,000 for allegedly paying his workers based on the number of signatures gathered rather than by the hour, the largest fine of its kind ever issued in Oregon).
The third instance occurred during a debate with Rosenblum, in which Holton called the Oregon Medical Marijuana Act a "train wreck." This has led to claims that he has no respect for the state law. Many of his critics leave out the second half of his sentence, however, in which he says the law is "putting marijuana in the hands of people, kids, who are not using it for pain management purposes."
Though there are few statistics or studies on how much marijuana grown for medicinal purposes is funneled into the black market, law enforcement professionals have claimed for years that this occurs with some regularity. Alex Moreno, a police chief in Nebraska, said that he's increasingly seeing surplus medical marijuana grown in Colorado flow into his state. "It's a pattern that is likely to increase here in Nebraska, particularly as it becomes more available and more widespread in Colorado," he told an I-News reporter.
The Oregon election places a spotlight on growing tension between federal and state authorities over the use of medical marijuana, which is illegal under federal law. During his presidential campaign, Barack Obama said that he wouldn't use "Justice Department resources to try to circumvent state laws on this issue." Medical marijuana advocates were heartened when, in Obama's first year in office, the Justice Department issued a memo urging prosecutors not to focus on "individuals whose actions are in clear and unambiguous compliance with existing state laws providing for the medical use of marijuana."
But since then, supporters of medical marijuana laws have watched with heightened concern as federal authorities cracked down on state-sanctioned facilities. In California alone, federal law enforcement officers have shut down over 200 dispensaries, and many say the Obama Administration has initiated raids against medical marijuana growers and sellers at a greater rate than George W. Bush.
When asked about this in a recent Rolling Stone interview, Obama said that he "never made a commitment that somehow we were going to give carte blanche to large-scale producers and operators of marijuana" and that the raids were conducted on "large-scale, commercial operations that may supply medical marijuana users, but in some cases may also be supplying recreational users." Unsurprisingly, many activists feel betrayed by the current administration.
"We're extremely disappointed," says Kris Hermes, a spokesperson for Americans for Safe Access, a national medical marijuana advocacy organization. "And the medical marijuana community feels betrayed in a lot of ways for how President Obama has dealt with this issue, or rather has failed to deal with this issue ... His tactics are unprecedented in this country's history, far worse than his predecessor George W. Bush."
Both Holton and Rosenblum seem surprised that marijuana has become a focus in the race. "This wasn't exactly our major issue in the campaign," says Rosenblum, who has spent much more of her campaign claiming Holton lacks a deep connection to Oregon. "But I guess it's kind of become one." At 61, Rosenblum is a former Oregon Court of Appeals judge. She's lived in Oregon for several decades and graduated from the University of Oregon, where she obtained both her B.S. and law degree. In addition to her stint as a judge, she also served as an Assistant United States Attorney in Oregon.
Still, Holton has taken to attacking Rosenblum for comments she has made that, if elected, she would consider enforcement of marijuana laws "low priority." "The thing that I find kind of shocking is that Ellen would go to a special interest group, any special interest group, and say, 'I'm not going to enforce the laws that regulate you,' and then raise money off it, which is exactly what she's done with marijuana legalization advocates," Holton says. "I think it is incredible that a person could put a 30-year legal career on the line by running for a state's highest law enforcement office by promising not to enforce the law."
Corrected on : Corrected 5/15/12: An earlier version of this story misidentified Ankylosing Spondylitis as a form of rheumatoid arthritis.