Freedom Fighter of the Month
January 2011 – Anthony Johnson
Oregon Measure 74 Campaign
By Russ Belville, NORML Outreach Coordinator
Many young people are energized and angry as they first learn of the insidious injustice wrought by our prohibition of cannabis. This month’s Freedom Fighter, Anthony Johnson of Oregon, is the perfect role model for anyone of college age to emulate if they wish to turn a passion for cannabis and dedication to civil liberty into meaningful change.
Johnson got his start in political activism as an undergrad in Columbia, Missouri with the University of Missouri NORML chapter, and later helped found their SSDP chapter. He was president of his law school ACLU chapter and worked on civil rights issues. He helped champion the case of a man later spared from Death Row
In 2003, Johnson (along with NORML Board Member Dan Viets) authored and placed on the ballot a municipal measure to decriminalize and medicalize marijuana. That measure garnered 43% of the vote. Undeterred, in 2004, the measure was split into two measures. The decriminalization measure passed with 61% of the vote and the medical passed with 69%.
Afterward, Johnson moved to Oregon and practiced law for two years with NORML lawyer Leland Berger. In 2006, Johnson was hired as political director for the cannabis reform organization, Voter Power, and co-authored the dispensary initiative that became Measure 74 – the Oregon Regulated Medical Marijuana Supply System. Without the usual big-money donations and attention that accompanies a major statewide initiative, Johnson rallied activists to collect the 86,000+ signatures needed to qualify for the Oregon ballot in 2010.
By the time you’re reading this, you’ll know whether Johnson and other Oregon activists were successful in creating a regulated dispensary system supplied by small-time producers subject only to a $1,000 licensing fee. But by going from college NORML chapter member to placing statewide measures on the ballot, Anthony Johnson is already a winner.