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Friday, October 24, 2014

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Medical marijuana becomes key issue in Ore. race

(SOURCE: KVAL.Com) PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Of the thousands of laws that Oregon's attorney general enforces or interprets, the one allowing medical marijuana has lit up the campaign for that office more than any other.

In a Democratic primary where the candidates agree on many things, their differences over marijuana stand out.

It's anyone's guess whether the pot vote will be enough to tip the scales. But no Republicans are seeking the job, so Democrats alone will choose the state's top lawyer in the May 15 primary.

Former federal prosecutor Dwight Holton has called Oregon's marijuana law a "train wreck," and he was the U.S. Attorney for Oregon when federal agents raided marijuana farms that were legal under state law.

His rival, retired Court of Appeals judge Ellen Rosenblum, has staked out a mellower view, saying she'll make marijuana enforcement a low priority.

She's hammered Holton over the issue with the help of a political action committee that wants to legalize the drug.

"Mr. Holton is out of step with his own party on this issue," said Bob Wolfe, director of Citizens for Sensible Law Enforcement. "He's trying to climb the career ladder on the backs of medical marijuana patients, and I don't find that acceptable."

Wolfe's committee was fined last week for allegedly violating initiative laws while gathering signatures for a ballot measure to legalize marijuana. He disputes the allegation.

There are 55,000 registered medical marijuana users in Oregon, and countless others who smoke weed illegally.

Holton has established himself as a tough-on-crime supporter of law enforcement, and touts endorsements from most of Oregon's sheriffs and district attorneys. He's long complained that Oregon's lax marijuana regulations make it too easy to get a card and give traffickers cover to grow marijuana that ultimately ends up on the black market.

Oregon allows medical marijuana patients to grow their own pot or to designate someone to grow it for them. Unlike many other medical marijuana states, Oregon doesn't allow dispensaries that distribute weed.

"I would welcome a conversation about how to do this better, how to meet the will of the voters better," Holton said. "But I'll gladly enforce the law."

He slams Rosenblum for telling marijuana advocates she'll make pot enforcement a low priority.

The tough talk aside, Rosenblum, like Holton, sees deficiencies in the law. She described it as "an adolescent with growing pains." Rather than a train wreck, it's "a bumpy ride," she said, and the law could use a look at improving the way patients get access to their marijuana.

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