Marijuana Legalization Initiative Qualifies for Oregon Ballot

Anthony Johnson (left), chief petitioner for New Approach Oregon, gets help in bringing the last of over 140,000 signatures supporting a ballot initiative to legalize recreational marijuana use from the Capitol and to the election division of the Secretary of State’s office on Thursday, June 26, 2014. (Photo via Timothy J. Gonzalez /Statesman Journal file)

Oregon voters will get to decide this November whether they want to legalize recreational marijuana for people 21 or older.

The New Approach Oregon campaign announced Tuesday that the initiative cleared the Secretary of State’s signature hurdle, earning the measure a place on the November ballot.

“This is our moment to be part of history and lead a movement,” Dominique Lopez, metro regional organizer for New Approach Oregon, said in a statement. “Treating marijuana use as a crime has failed, but together we can win a more sensible approach and better the lives of Oregonians.”

The proposal would allow a person to possess up to eight ounces of marijuana and to cultivate up to four plants. It would also give the Oregon Liquor Control Commission authority to oversee and regulate recreational sales, which would start in January 2016.

Recreational marijuana would be taxed at $1.50 a gram or $35 an ounce, according to the initiative. That money would be used for schools, law enforcement, drug treatment programs and mental health programs.

If Oregonians legalize recreational marijuana in November, the Beaver State could become the third state in the nation to do so. Alaskans will also vote this November, and Washington and Colorado voters both passed legalization initiatives in 2012.

“With legalization initiatives qualified in two states — and another in (Washington D.C.) likely to be certified soon — plus several recent wins on the floor of the Republican-controlled U.S. House, 2014 is shaping up to be the biggest year for marijuana reform yet,” Tom Angell, founder of the Marijuana Majority, said in a statement. “If we win these legalization initiatives, it’s not only likely that more states will follow suit in 2016 but that presidential candidates on both sides of the aisle are going to see the value in being perceived as pro-reform.”

Oregonians voted 55-45 against legalizing recreational cannabis in 2012.

That effort, lead by Paul Stanford, received little financial support from national marijuana advocacy organizations — which called the initiative poorly written.

Instead, groups like the New York-based Drug Policy Alliance gave their money to the Colorado and Washington campaigns.

New Approach Oregon leaders say they’ve learned from those mistakes and call their initiative a “sober” approach to legalization. Their measure places limits on personal possession, sets the age at 21 rather than 18 and bans public consumption.

Their approach appears to be working.

The Drug Police Alliance has donated $50,000, Drug Policy Action has given $150,000 and marijuana advocate Phillip Harvey donated $50,000.

In total, New Approach Oregon has raked in nearly $870,000 in campaign contributions, according to online records from the Secretary of State’s Office.

Marijuana Legalization Initiative Qualifies for Oregon Ballot

Article by Anna Staver for The Statesman Journal