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STEVE ELLIOTT

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The successes of marijuana legalization efforts last year in Colorado and Washington state have pundits buzzing about which state might “go” next, as progress slowly but inevitably puffs its way across the American pot landscape.

The short list of “next legal” states includes Oregon, California and Maine, according to Marijuana Policy Project‘s Steve Fox, reports Noelle Crombie at The OregonianFox, director of government relations for the Washington, D.C.-based MPP, spoke on Sunday at a town hall meeting of cannabis activists in Portland, Oregon.

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Steve Fox, Marijuana Policy Project:
Colorado legalization effort was successful because it focused on the fact that marijuana is safer than alcohol

Fox joined U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Oregon), who voiced his strong support for reclassifying marijuana from its current Schedule I federal status — in which it is categorized as a drug with no accepted medical use and a high risk of “abuse” (oh, really?) — to a classification which is more, shall we say, in tune with reality.

Rep. Blumenauer said he expects Oregon’s voters will legalize marijuana within the next decade; he said legalization is gaining momentum after November’s victories in Washington and Colorado, reports KATU. The Congressman said he doesn’t want the federal government to interfere when state voters legalize pot.

Blumenauer also said he supported reforming federal banking rules so that state-legal cannabis-related businesses can get access to “a full range of banking services.” He said states have “varying degrees of sophistication and consistency” when it comes to regulating medical marijuana.

“Here in Oregon, I think this would be an opportunity to take a step back,” he told The Oregonian after his talk. “It’s time for the Legislature to look at how it works and provide a framework for how medical marijuana is managed and administered.”

State-run medical marijuana programs deal with a substance which is still against federal law, Blumenauer said, so “it’s important to be careful with it.”

The MPP’s Steve Fox, meanwhile, focused on recreational legalization, saying the Colorado effort won by hammering home a basic message: Marijuana is safer than alcohol “and it makes no sense to punish people who want to use marijuana instead of alcohol.”

According to Fox, getting a legalization measure on the 2016 ballot, a presidential election year, would result in greater changes of passage than if activists try to legalize again in 2014.

“What we have seen since 2000 is that if you do a ballot initiative related to marijuana on a presidential election year ballot as opposed to a mid-term election, the difference is stark,” Fox said.

But some Oregon activists — emboldened by the relatively narrow defeat in November of Measure 80, sponsored by Paul Stanford of The Hemp and Cannabis Foundation — remain focused on the 2014 ballot.

 

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