Some people were surprised when Washington legalized marijuana in 2012 and Oregon did not, though the issue went up for vote in Oregon that year and received 47% support. This year, Oregon voters are being faced with two different legalization initiative campaigns, and both of them seem likely to reach the ballot—one of those campaigns even includes a constitutional amendment to end marijuana prohibition, which could also make the ballot. Three potential choices for legalization means three opportunities for the progressive state to join its northern neighbor in the quickly-expanding marijuana trade.
One option, the Oregon Cannabis Tax Act (OCTA), is essentially the same campaign that was nearly passed in 2012. Headed by medical marijuana ganjapreneur Paul Stanford, this campaign is actually a two-pronged effort, with the Oregon Cannabis Amendment (OCA) being yet another possible avenue toward marijuana legalization.
The 2014 OCTA differs from the 2012 campaign mainly by adding personal possession and growing limits, neither of which were addressed in the 2012 campaign: “We got 47% allowing people to grow and possess unlimited amounts for personal use, but people want limits,” said Stanford.
The 2012 vote was so close, in fact, that the numbers strongly encourage a second attempt: “In Washington, they spent $7 million; in Colorado, they spent $4 million; here in Oregon, we spent… half a million, and we only lost by 112,000 votes,” Stanford explained. This year’s campaign has gotten a few private funding pledges, but major marijuana activist groups like the Drug Policy Alliance and the Marijuana Policy Project have offered no support. Nonetheless, Stanford believes that the OCTA has a good shot at getting passed this year, and even argues that it would have succeeded in 2012 with just a little more funding.
The second campaign is called New Approach Oregon. The Control, Regulation, and Taxation of Marijuana and Industrial Hemp Act is its brainchild; the bill, and also a near-identical counterpart that is a placeholder if the first one is rejected or delayed by Congress, would legalize the personal possession of up to eight ounces of marijuana and allow the personal cultivation of four plants. The bill trusts the Oregon Liquor Control Board to regulate marijuana sales, but instead of a marijuana commission, there would be a predetermined tax set at $35 per ounce.
“We’ve received pledges of a million dollars to get us on the ballot, and we expect to have time to gather the necessary signatures,” said the New Approach Oregon campaign manager, Anthony Johnson. And on the subject of funding, Johnson explained, “our funding team has always included the Drug Policy Alliance, as well as other national funders.”
Both initiatives are expected to enter signature-collection soon, and will require 87,213 valid voter signatures to qualify for the November ballot. The constitutional amendment, however, requires 116,284 signatures to be placed on the ballot.
But perhaps the most important aspect of the upcoming votes on marijuana legalization is the mutual respect and support across both campaigns. As long as legalization is on the ballot and is passed in one way or another, both sides will be happy. “Of course I’ll be voting for New Approach Oregon, and I encourage everyone else to,” said Stanford. In turn, Johnson clarified that “if he (Stanford) makes the ballot, we will support any measure that improves the status quo.”
Oregon is joined by Alaska and Washington D.C. in voting on the legalization and regulation of cannabis this year. Alaskans will be voting first on their initiative in August, and will hopefully be joining Colorado and Washington’s thriving cannabis industry. Oregon, at least, could become the first state to legalize marijuana twice (or even three times) in one election.
Photo Credit: Edmund Garman