Weed Stokes Competing Initiative Campaigns

Plant Says, “No Comment” 

by Ron Georg

Last year, Gallup polls revealed that for the first time ever, 50 percent of Americans support the legalization of marijuana. That shift in attitude has activists champing at the bit, with two groups currently gathering signatures in Oregon for legalization initiatives.

The Oregon Cannabis Tax Act 2012 was first out of the gate. Backed by the Campaign for the Restoration and Regulation of Hemp, OCTA 2012 organizers bring experience to the effort, having failed to gather enough signatures in 2010. OCTA’s most recent reporting shows nearly 42,000 signatures, nearly half the 87,000 they’ll need.

Citizen’s Initiative Petition 24 got a slightly later start last summer, but chief petitioner Bob Wolfe, representing Citizens for Sensible Law Enforcement, said the group has already gathered 53,000 signatures. Wolfe said they’re on track to collect the 116,000 signatures they’ll need to on the ballot.

IP 24 has a higher requirement because the initiative would amend the state constitution, while OCTA would make a statutory change. Wolfe said he’s not trying to establish a whole new regulatory structure, he just wants to address a single issue—ending marijuana prohibition.

“I believe that if you try to impose a fully-formed new marijuana economy on the citizens, they’re going to rebel, they’re going to find it confusing,” he said. “By taking all that stuff out it forces everyone to pay attention to the basic question, ‘Should adults in Oregon suffer criminal penalties for personal use of marijuana?’ Once you boil it down to that simple question, the vast majority of people say, no, adults in Oregon should not suffer those penalties for personal use of marijuana.”

Wolfe said he believes there are over 500,000 regular marijuana users in the state, a number supported by government statistics. He doesn’t believe that current policies have an effect on that number.

“One of the things that law enforcement officers will always say is if you decriminalize it or legalize it, it’s going to be everywhere,” Wolfe said. “No, it’s already everywhere. Everybody that wants to smoke marijuana already gets to because it’s easy to find, and it’s cheap. We have, according to expert sources online, the most plentiful supply of the highest quality and lowest cost marijuana in the country.”

While Citizens for Sensible Law Enforcement are preparing policy papers to help guide the legislature in forming a regulatory structure, IP 24 is remarkably concise. In just one paragraph, it says that no civil or criminal penalties shall be applied to adult possession and use of marijuana.

OCTA 2012, meanwhile, is much more complicated. The law includes a provision for a state commission to regulate and distribute marijuana, and it includes a taxing mechanism. It would also distinguish between marijuana and hemp, its industrial cousin, and prohibit any hemp regulation.

So far OCTA seems to have sidestepped the opposition from the medical marijuana community which plagued California’s Prop 19 legalization effort in 2010, and which is currently dividing activists over Washington’s Initiative 502. OCTA specifically prohibits any changes to Oregon’s popular medical marijuana program.

Both petitions have been circulating around Corvallis, and copies are available for individual signature online. IP 24 is at www.endprohibitionagain.com, while OCTA 2012 can be found at www.cannabistaxact.org.

If you haven’t heard of either initiative, it may be because so far the groups haven’t needed much press to raise awareness of their cause. As Bob Wolfe put it, “We never hear the question, ‘What’s marijuana?’”

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