Thursday, June 24, 2010

Portland Daily Sun

Greens gain cred in dispensary effort

You have to hand it to Portland City Attorney Gary Wood. It's not part of his job description to build consensus among the often raucous councilors or convince residents to participate in municipal policy decisions, yet he managed to accomplish those goals with his recent suggestion for a six-month moratorium on marijuana dispensaries.

Granted, it was in opposition to his proposal ... but still.

To be fair at the risk of abandoning consistency, even city councilors who were most in opposition to Wood's proposal offered near-praise, or at least olive branches, for the poor guy. Other communities have more or less agreed with his assessment and approved similar measures, and he was pretty much honor-bound to bring it up.

He was, well, doing his job.

As the dust settled and the city's marijuana activists exhaled a sigh of relief, The Green Party was noting its role in defeating the moratorium. In a press release, they noted that "The Green Party is claiming victory today over a moratorium that would have prohibited the siting of any medical marijuana dispensaries in Portland for six months and possibly longer. Thankfully, the council ended up defeating the moratorium unanimously and then adopting a proposal by Green City Councilor David Marshall to open up Portland’s downtown district to future dispensaries."

Hey, the Green Party pushing a pro-marijuana agenda is naturally greeted with the shock! shock! usually reserved for discovering gambling in Casablanca nightclubs. But this effort comes in the context of a general push to energize the party through the Summer of Politics.

And why not? Politically relevance can be hard to come by locally, what with multiple rallies every week, ranging from veteran anti-war activists dating back to Vietnam to the latest public affairs effort with "rally" on their deliverables checklist. The Green Party has a built-in credibility; the satellite TV trucks and headlines proved it.

When a group doth perhaps protest too much for an issue supported by 75 percent of voters (in Portland) and clearly headed to victory, something else is up. There's always the chance that they're following that old political strategy that says "find a parade, get in front, pretend to lead." But remember that The Greens helped form this particular parade, working hard to get Question 5, the marijuana dispensary law, passed. Say what you want, but they are not new to this issue.

The new Green Party Chairman, John Elder, offered some perspective “It’s a victory for common sense but it’s a pale victory. We never should have had to fight it. Almost 75% of Portlanders voted in favor of the dispensaries and six months later sick and dying people are still waiting to buy their medicine legally as the law provides."

What's most likely here is that the Green Party, having only recently installed Elder, has done some math. They are strongly associated with an issue that 75 percent of voters in the city, and a healthy majority statewide, agree with. Yet "traditional politicans" are going to shy away, fearing they might ruffle feathers in that elusive "center."

This is political branding at its best.

So you can add "helped energized a political party!" to the city attorney's accomplishments. Although, again, not his likely goal.

(Curtis Robinson is editor of The Portland Daily Sun. Contact him at

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