Why did Oregon voters approve pot, but not GMO labels? Why no scholarship fund for Oregon students, nor driver cards for undocumented immigrants? Journalist Jacob Lewin offers these observations on Election 2014:

“In opting to legalize marijuana, Oregonians were probably seeing illegal pot as a form of prohibition that wasn’t working. Having Washington state lead the way on this was probably a factor. The sheriff of King County said in ads for the pro-pot campaign in Oregon that it was working in Washington and that revenues were going to schools and police and not to drug cartels. With recreational marijuana also legal in Colorado, Oregon became the third state to legalize. We were quickly followed by Alaska last night. It will also be legal to use marijuana in Washington DC.

The measure to require labels on food with genetically modified organisms is narrowly failing. The campaigns against it and for it were the most expensive in Oregon. For some, the anti-labeling campaign may have backfired. The idea that labels would create fear and misunderstanding was probably offensive to some voters who thought they’d be able to read the labels without being scared.

While most of the pro-labeling voters were probably also anti-GMO and most of the labeling foes pro-GMO there were also some people in the middle. They think some of the important questions, such as how much pesticide use would increase with increased use of GMO’s and how that squares with solving world hunger, are questions that have not been answered. Labeling would give them a choice until we get those answers. Still, Oregon would have been the first state to pass a GMO labeling ballot measure and that probably was a factor. Legislators in Vermont passed one, to take effect in 2016.

One surprise, to me at least, was the very weak showing for a measure that would have created a state college scholarship fund. Oregon has heavily disinvested in higher education over the years and we do a relatively poor job of helping poor and middle class kids with financial aid. This at a time when there’s a full-blown student debt crisis. It’s possible that voters did not want the state to go into more debt, which was central to this measure.

The drubbing of a measure that would have let residents who are undocumented immigrants get drivers’ licenses will be taken hard by Oregon’s half million Latinos. While the great majority are not undocumented immigrants, most do have family members who are, and this both continues a hardship for them and they will be hurt and offended by the vote. Many of them think if the great majority of the 175-thousand undocumented immigrants in Oregon were Canadian and not Mexican, it would not have come to this.”

Oregonians also rejected the “Open Primary” proposal, which would have included voters of any party – and propelled the top two candidates to a feneral election. News partner OPB reports Measure 90 went down, despite an infusion of out-of-state money in its favor.

Rebecca Webb

Rebecca Webb is the Founder and Team Leader at Portland Radio Project Listen Now

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