What Will it Take to Legalize Marijuana in Oregon?

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Today, after years of opposition to marijuana legalization, the Oregonian editorial board took the plunge: They say the time has come for Oregon legislators to consider marijuana reform.

They make a logical, pro-business pitch for pot, since Washington passed I-502 this week:

If business booms at Washington's pot shops, as expected? Our neighbor to the north will collect millions of dollars in new "sin" taxes, with much of the money coming from Oregonians who'd be happy to keep their business—and taxes—in state if given the opportunity.

So what will it take to legalize marijuana in Oregon? This November's Measure 80 brought in a surprising number of votes, seeing as it had a disorganized and minimal campaign that national marijuana reform organizations would not sponsor. The Yes on 80 PAC spent just $60,000 and netted 46 percent of the vote. With a real, funded professional campaign effort, it seems like Oregon could easily tip to over 50 percent.

While Oregon's measure felt like a small potatoes campaign run by someone recently convicted of tax evasion, Washington's I-502 campaign spent $6 million on the election, bringing in big money from national groups like the ACLU and Drug Policy Action. Washington's campaign got lead sponsorship from whip-smart lawyers, doctors, and the Seattle City Attorney. They got former federal law enforcement agents to film pro-legalization TV ads. They put forward a well-written initiative that got the endorsement of every respectable paper in the state. Then they got 55 percent of the vote.

That's what Oregon will need to legalize marijuana: A well-written law change, support from law enforcement, and a smart campaign. The support is already here.

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