Voters to decide marijuana legalization
Oregon, Alaska have ballot measures.
Voters will decide Nov. 4 whether Oregon joins other states to legalize the recreational use of marijuana.
The state Elections Division confirmed Tuesday that the initiative measure obtained enough signatures to qualify for a statewide vote.
The measure would leave details of regulation and taxation to the Oregon Liquor Control Commission, similar to measures approved in Washington and Colorado in 2012. Retail sales began July 8 in Washington, and on Jan. 1 in Colorado.
Oregon voters rejected a different legalization measure in 2012, but supporters had little money to promote it. Some of the same contributors to the Washington and Colorado measures are backing the latest Oregon effort.
Peter Zuckerman, a spokesman for New Approach Oregon, says the campaign will focus now on voter registration.
This is our time to pass a new approach to marijuana in Oregon, he said. The numbers we have make it clear that the old approach to marijuana has not worked.
Alaska also will have a legalization measure on the ballot.
During their first joint appearance of the campaign Friday, Oregons two major-party candidates for governor disagreed on the ballot measure but agreed that the state should prepare for its passage.
Democratic Gov. John Kitzhaber said he would not vote for the measure: But I believe that legalization of marijuana is inevitable in this state and its important we get ahead of that.
Republican nominee Dennis Richardson did not take a stand, although he said he preferred that Oregon wait a year: We can watch what is coming down (from Washington and Colorado) and learn from them things they are doing right and the mistakes they are making.
They spoke at a forum sponsored by the Oregon Newspaper Publishers Association.
State officials said that through sampling, they verified 88,584 signatures of 135,722 accepted, just above the threshold of 87,213.
The measure will be the fifth on the Nov. 4 ballot. Awaiting verification is one more measure requiring labeling of genetically engineered foods in Oregon.
Oregon was the first state to decriminalize possession of less than one ounce of marijuana, dating back to 1973. The maximum fine is $1,000, set in 1989.
Oregon was also among the early states, dating back to 1998, to approve medical use of marijuana via a ballot initiative. Voters that same year also rejected a legislative attempt to reimpose criminal penalties for possession of small amounts.
Nearby half the states (23) authorize marijuana for medical use, and legislation is pending in three more.
But voters rejected a 2010 measure for Oregon to license dispensaries for medical marijuana. Lawmakers approved a different plan in 2013, although many cities and counties have approved one-year delays.
Zuckerman said approval of the current measure would allow people to avoid criminal records for possession, and law enforcement to work on other matters.
Every day we wait is a day that police cannot focus on more serious crimes, he says.