By SIMON OWENS
Meeting Jim Greig, you wouldn’t guess he’s a prominent member of Oregon’s medical marijuana activist community.
The 62-year-old suffers from Ankylosing Spondylitis, a severe form of rheumatoid arthritis. Greig was diagnosed with the disease in the 1980s when he was 38. At the time he ran an advertising agency, helping to put on more than 150 shows for singers such as Alice Cooper, Tom Petty, and Peter Gabriel. As a self-employed individual, he hadn’t bothered to buy health insurance, so when his knee began to give out repeatedly he was forced to pay out-of-pocket to visit emergency rooms.
“It started in my right knee, and in six months it spread to my other knee,” he says. “I went from a crutch to a double crutch to a wheelchair within about six to eight months.” He’s been confined to a wheelchair ever since. He estimates that he is bedridden “80 to 90 percent of the time.” Blind in one eye, Greig speaks in a deep, gravely voice, pausing every few moments to catch his breath.
Greig began using marijuana to alleviate his pain sometime around 1995. “It’s a great relief,” he says. “Cannabis will relax you in ways that no opiate will, and will make it seem like the pain is less intense. Because of it I can do half the amount of opiates and feel better doing it.”
He became part of the medical marijuana rights movement when he moved back to Oregon from California in 2004. For the last seven years he has organized the Eugene chapter of the Global Marijuana March, a worldwide event that takes place in hundreds of cities. He’s been a board member of the Voter Power Foundation, a medical marijuana activism organization, for about five years. Two years ago, he co-directed a political action committee that advocated for Measure 74, an Oregon ballot initiative that would have permitted the creation of privately-owned, non-profit medical marijuana dispensaries. The measure failed in 2010.
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It’s no surprise then that Greig knew who Dwight Holton was when Holton announced earlier this year he was running for Oregon Attorney General to replace departing Democrat John Kroger. Holton had been interim U.S. Attorney for Oregon when federal agents executed search warrants on several marijuana farms in the state last fall. That and other actions from his office had irked medical marijuana and pro-legalization activists, including Greig, so Greig posted a message to a listserv of about 300 other activists suggesting that they begin publicly opposing Holton’s candidacy.
Other prominent activists quickly reached out to him, and soon afterward they launched a full-scale attack on Holton, one that has gained the attention of national pro-legalization and medical marijuana activists, several of whom are supporting Holton’s opponent, Ellen Rosenblum. A former Oregon Court of Appeals judge, Rosenblum will face off against him in the Democratic primary next Tuesday. No Republican has entered the race, so the winner of the primary will determine the November outcome.
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By SIMON OWENS