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Voters say no to Measure 74

Supporters of a failed ballot measure that would have allowed medical marijuana dispensaries said a national turn to the right and "rampant apathy" among liberals doomed the Oregon initiative.

But Rogue Valley backers of the failed Measure 74 predicted it would be on the ballot in two years, when voters might not be so frustrated with national politics.

"The low turnout came from such a huge backlash against national politics and made our state suffer," said Robin Brown of Voter Power Foundation, the group that worked to pass medical marijuana in Oregon 12 years ago and campaigned for Measure 74, which would have created state-regulated dispensaries.

With just under 1 million ballots counted statewide Tuesday night, the measure was losing by a 58 percent to 42 percent vote. In Jackson County, it was bloodied more fiercely in early tallies, losing by about 62 percent to 38 percent or 32,039 to 19,300.

The measure was opposed by the vast majority of candidates running for state offices and by law enforcement officials, who said it would only further complicate an already confusing medical marijuana system in the state. Local police officers, several of whom are under scrutiny for allegedly taking a political stance on the issue, declined to comment on the result.

A small group of supporters gathered to watch returns at Ashland's CultureWorks, owned by Chris Iverson, who said he opened a pot dispensary in Portland before medical marijuana was first allowed by voters — and was arrested for it.

Iverson blamed "bad publicity" from the unsuccessful California campaign to legalize recreational use and said voters weren't motivated because they thought present Oregon laws allowed sufficient access to the drug.

"They'll never stop," Iverson said of pro-pot forces. "It's a very popular issue. It's in every movie and so much a part of mainstream culture now. It's taken a long time to get to where we are now — and the opposition comes from the justice industry, the prison industry, the most powerful forces in America who want to keep it illegal."

Alex Rogers of Ashland Alternative Health, a Pro Oregon member, said, "It didn't have to fail. The progressive liberal forces could have organized, like the Tea Party and we'd have stomped them into the ground. But the rampant apathy is because of our economy. It's in such great peril. It's so hard for anyone to think outside their individual lives."

John Darling is a freelance writer living in Ashland. E-mail him at jdarling@jeffnet.org.

Supporters of Measure 74 gathered at CultureWorks in Ashland on Tuesday evening. - Julia Moore