UPDATE: After posting this article, we received news that the New Approach Oregon campaign received a $250,000 donation from the estate of Peter Lewis and another $150,000 from the Drug Policy Alliance. The Oregonian reports the campaign has now raised over $900,000.
As an Oregonian, you know things are going well for marijuana legalization in your state when there are three opportunities to end adult marijuana prohibition… and the conservative one would legalize personal possession of an ounce of concentrates, a half-pound of marijuana, a pound of medibles, and a six-pack of tinctures!
Oregon was the one of the three states in America that voted on marijuana legalization in 2012 and we were saddened when Washington and Colorado stepped first into recreational marijuana without us. While they were passing legalization with 55 percent of the public’s support, our initiative was failing with 46 percent. What happened in Oregon -- the first state to pass decriminalization in 1973 and among the second group of states to pass medical in 1998?
The 2012 Oregon initiative, known as the Oregon Cannabis Tax Act (OCTA), was too big of a first legalization step, even for Oregonians to take. It would have made legal the possession of an unlimited amount of usable marijuana and cultivation of an unlimited number of cannabis plants, just so long as they were for personal use only. It also would have created a state cannabis commission made up mostly of grower-selected representatives, whose job it would have been to purchase all cannabis grown commercially and to contract with and set the sales price for all retail outlets. In essence, OCTA made the cannabis commission a state monopoly wholesaler of marijuana run by the growers themselves. It didn’t help that the campaign was crippled by lack of funding since no big national interests that backed Washington and Colorado legalization stepped up to back legalization in Oregon.
The proponent of that initiative, D. Paul Stanford of The Campaign for the Restoration and Regulation of Hemp (CRRH), is back with two initiatives to legalize marijuana in 2014. He has revised the 2012 OCTA by setting possession and cultivation limits equal to the medical marijuana program at 24 plants and 24 ounces. The cannabis commission that will control the wholesale purchasing and retail pricing of pot will be selected by the governor. It also explicitly forbids the regulation of hemp. It is now gathering signatures as Initiative-22, the Oregon Cannabis Tax Act.
Stanford’s other initiative is to place the Oregon Cannabis Amendment into the state constitution. This amendment would make inapplicable the criminal laws, sanctions, and civil asset forfeiture surrounding marijuana to people exercising their right to private, personal use of cannabis. The amendment allows for the legislature to establish reasonable regulations upholding the right to cannabis. It is now gathering signatures as Initiative-21, Help End Marijuana Prohibition in Oregon (HEMP), and it would provide a constitutional backing for either of the statutory marijuana legalization amendments that pass.
The third initiative for the 2014 election is proposed by New Approach Oregon (NAO). It is now gathering signatures as Initiative-53. Anthony Johnson, who successfully led the 2010 campaign to place medical marijuana dispensary regulation on the ballot, is the chief petitioner of this measure that would legalize the personal possession of an ounce of hash oil, eight ounces of usable marijuana, 16 ounces of solid marijuana products, 72 ounces of liquid marijuana products, and four marijuana plants per household. NAO will mandate an annual $1,250 application and licensing fee for commercial producers, processors, and retailers. Commercial licensees may hold all three licenses (vertical integration like Colorado) or any one or two licenses (like Washington) and taxation will be capped at a one-time $1.25-per-gram charge (Oregonians loathe a sales tax).
According to the Oregon Secretary of State’s campaign finance records, both of Stanford’s initiatives have received some cash funding from out-of-state backers, including $77,000 from the Foundation for Constitutional Protection out of Austin, Texas, for the constitutional amendment. But I-21 & I-22 are mostly funded through Stanford’s own in-kind donations from CRRH, including almost $65,000 toward the OCTA and over $81,000 for the HEMP.
Johnson’s initiative has received over $658,000 in cash contributions alone, with $260,000 from the national Drug Policy Alliance, almost $100,000 from the estate of the late drug reform philanthropist Peter Lewis, $100,000 from perfume heir Henry van Ameringen, and $100,000 from adult mail-order businessman Philip Harvey. New Approach Oregon’s in-kind donations bring the total to over one million dollars in campaign finances.
The two statutory marijuana initiatives require 87,213 valid signatures to make the ballot and the constitutional amendment requires 116,284. Paul Stanford of CRRH says his campaign has gathered 55,000 signatures toward the I-21 amendment petition and 50,000 signatures toward the I-22 statutory petition. “We’re moving forward with our petition drive,” Stanford told HIGH TIMES, “and we’re hiring petitioners across the state. We are confident we will quality for a vote and win in November.” Anthony Johnson of NAO told HIGH TIMES they’ve collected over 60,000 signatures and are well on pace to qualify for the ballot in November. Both campaigns have until July 3rd to collect the necessary signatures.
"Radical" Russ Belville is the host of The Russ Belville Show.