OREGON: Backed by national donors, an Oregon pro-marijuana group on Friday filed an initiative with the secretary of state aimed at following Washington and Colorado’s first-in-the-nation ballot legalization measures.
New Approach Oregon said it will first push for legislators to refer their new measure to the November, 2014 ballot. If that doesn’t work, the measurer’s chief petitioner, Anthony Johnson, said his group will have the resources to collect the 87,213 signatures needed to put the initiative before voters.
Washington and Colorado in 2012 became the first states to legalize the drug for recreational purposes. At the same time, Oregon voters rejected a legalization measure that was much looser. It would have, for example, allowed drinking-age adults to possess unlimited amounts of marijuana and an industry-dominated board would have regulated sales.
New Approach Oregon’s measure would allow 21-and-over adults to possess up to eight ounces of dried marijuana and four plants. In addition, sales of the drug would be regulated by the Oregon Liquor Control Commission.
Johnson said he wanted to enact a “responsible marijuana law” that has a “strict system of control.” The group also has support from big national donors who helped fund the Washington and Colorado measures.
The Drug Policy Alliance, which is tied to billionaire currency trader George Soros, last month gave $50,000 to New Approach. Peter Lewis, the chairman of Progressive Insurance Company, gave $32,000 earlier this month.
Clatsop County District Attorney Josh Marquis, who helped lead opposition to the 2012 legalization measure, said he’s not swayed by the new measure. He said Oregon should stick with its current laws, which allows the use of medical marijuana and levies non-criminal citations for other possession of small amounts of the drug.
But Marquis conceded that opponents could not match a big-dollar campaign from marijuana advocates.
“We’re not going to have the money to put on a counter-campaign and they might be able to convince people it’s a harmless weed and that everybody can just toke up,” he said.
The latest measure differs from the Washington law in two significant ways. It would allow individuals to grow marijuana at home and keep more than Washington’s one-ounce limit in private. Secondly, it doesn’t seek a tough new standard on driving under the influence of marijuana.
Paul Stanford, who owns a chain of medical marijuana clinics and sponsored the 2012 initiative in Oregon, is back with two more legalization measures. One would give 21-and-over adults the constitutional right to grow and possess marijuana and the other would lay out a system for regulating the drug.
Stanford, who is already collecting signatures for his initiatives, would allow individuals to possess up to 24 plants and 24 ounces of dried marijuana. He’s also modified his regulatory board so that it would be appointed by the governor. In addition, Stanford said he is getting financial help for his latest efforts from the Austin-based Foundation for Constitutional Protection.