In the 13 months since being elected, Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum has been making history. She has helped beef up Oregon consumer protection programs and endorsed a bill that should help medical marijuana cardholders better connect with legal pot-slinging dispensaries. But perhaps Rosenblum's biggest accomplishment came the day she took office, June 29, 2012: It was on that day that the trim, friendly, glasses-wearing former judge and mother of two became Oregon's first female attorney general.
Last week we sat down with Rosenblum, 62, for a lengthy interview. Here's where she's at with...
For years, Oregon's medical marijuana outlets have been operating in legal limbo. Medical marijuana cardholders were often unsure of how and where to get their pot and cops didn't know how or what to enforce.
This summer, Rosenblum helped wash away that gray area.
In June, Rosenblum endorsed House Bill 3460, which would create a registry for state-licensed medical marijuana retail outlets. The bill was signed into law Aug. 14.
"I think it's about time the law caught up with what's been happening because people otherwise didn't have access to what the laws were providing," Rosenblum said, noting that dispensaries have existed in Oregon since the medical marijuana law was passed nearly 15 years ago.
Pot may have helped Rosenblum get elected—the Oregonian reports that pro-marijuana groups contributed $200,000 to her campaign, based on her support of legalizing the medical marijuana outlets—but she's not exactly a reefer advocate, and she's far from a roll-back-the-war-on-drugs type (earlier this month U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder called mandatory minimums "draconian" and added, "We must ensure that our most severe mandatory minimum penalties are reserved for serious, high-level, or violent drug traffickers").
Oregon, Rosenblum said, is different.
"We don't put a whole lot of people in prison who are engaged in marijuana activities." As for sweeping legalization, Rosenblum suspects 2014 could be Oregon's year.
"What's being proposed [for 2014] is closer to what passed in Colorado and Washington. So, we'll see."
Rosenblum, however, said she would continue to ask the Legislature for more resources to fight big-ticket crimes, which increasingly are being perpetrated by Mexican drug cartels that have taken root in the state over the past decade. "I'm not talking about medical marijuana, or even marijuana—I'm talking about other drugs that are more insidious."
Rosenblum referenced a recent meth-and-guns bust in Klamath Falls that resulted in 40 arrests as an example.
"After six long years in critical condition, Oregon's housing market is finally recovering," Rosenblum wrote in a recent editorial in Salem's daily, The Statesmen Journal. "Homes are selling quicker and for more money. Foreclosures, thankfully, are down. But we're not all the way back."
To help Oregon get "all the way back," Rosenblum supported the revamped Oregon Foreclosure Avoidance Program, which was signed into law in June. The program requires banks to meet face-to-face with homeowners before foreclosing.
Even if the last-ditch effort only helps a few homeowners, it'll be a success. In March, according to the Oregon Department of Justice, banks filed more than a thousand judicial foreclosures. Rosenblum's editorial pointed out that "nearly 29,000 Oregonians—almost 5 percent of all homeowners—are 90 days or more delinquent on their mortgage."
"We're just really hopeful that this is going to help," Rosenblum told us.
...child support services
While in Central Oregon, Rosenblum visited Bend's Division of Child Support offices—one of 12 such offices in the state. It was an important meeting. The Department of Justice oversees the collection of more than a million dollars a day in child support.
"It's a lot, especially in a fairly small state," Rosenblum said.
"My top priority in the Legislature this session was a new IT program so that we can have a better, modernized program for doing this [collecting child support in Oregon]."
Rosenblum said she persuaded the governor to put a $14.5 million bond sale in his budget to help pay for a modernized IT system (though it won't be online until 2017).
"Hopefully things will not break down too much between now and then," added Rosenblum.
Every December the Department of Justice issues a list of the top 20 worst charities in the state, some scamming residents who have good intentions, giving as little as 3 percent to the cause they claim to support. (3 percent!) Others don't offer tax deductions because they're not registered with the IRS. Rosenblum wants worthy causes to get their due—and donors, too.
"What we're hoping is that we can get some of these charities to shape up and give more of what they receive, or get out of town," stated Rosenblum.
This year she helped pass legislation that stipulates charities must give a very manageable 30 percent.
Feeling ripped off? The Department of Justice maintains a live consumer hotline (1-877-877-9392) 8:30 am to 4:30 pm, Monday through Friday. Investigators are standing by and ready to help with everything from student loans, to car buying, to that questionable charge on your cell phone bill. See oregonconsumer.gov for more.