Medical Marijuana Advocates Celebrate Victory In Race For Oregon Attorney General

Pro-pot groups have reason to celebrate: Ellen Rosenblum, a retired appellate court judge who's been vocal in her support for Oregon's medical marijuana law, beat out former federal prosecutor Dwight Holton in the race for Oregon's attorney general in a landslide victory on Tuesday night.

Rosenblum's easy victory on Tuesday -- she captured 63 percent of the vote to Holton's 36 percent -- highlights the power of the pot lobby as well as the political sway of Oregon's 55,000 registered medical marijuana users.

On her campaign website Rosenblum had promised, "As attorney general, I will make marijuana enforcement a low priority, and protect the rights of medical marijuana patients," winning her the support of drug policy activists statewide.

Drug Policy Action, a driving force behind the passage of Oregon's 1998 medical marijuana law, had thrown its weight behind her campaign, contributing $100,000 to the campaign and to Oregon group Citizens for Sensible Law Enforcement in the final stretches of the campaign. Drug Policy Action ally John Sperling also contributed $100,000 of his personal funds to Rosenblum and CSLE, according to a press release.

“Dwight Holton’s defeat in the Oregon attorney general’s race should be taken as a clear and unambiguous message to U.S. attorneys around the country and to the national Democratic leadership that attacking state-approved medical marijuana programs is not a smart political move," said Jill Harris, managing director of strategic initiatives for Drug Policy Action and Oregon native, in a statement Tuesday night. "Medical marijuana has overwhelming public support ... and organizations like Drug Policy Action will be there to defend patients’ rights to safely access the medicine they need.”

Nearly three-quarters of Americans and more than two-thirds of Republicans believe federal officials should respect state laws on medical marijuana, according to new Mason-Dixon survey of 1,000 likely 2012 general election voters.

Holton -- who served as an interim U.S. attorney from 2010 to 2011, authorizing a handful of controversial raids on pot farms in southern Oregon last fall -- had positioned himself as the law-and-order candidate, receiving support from Oregon district attorneys and county sheriffs as well as many public employee's unions.

If Rosenblum wins in the general election in November as expected -- no Republicans sought the party's nomination -- Rosenblum will become the state's first woman elected attorney general.

She may inherit the seat even before November, as Democratic incumbent John Kroger is leaving to become president of Reed College. Gov. John Kitzhaber (D) will appoint his interim successor, who is required to be a Democrat.