Today is the deadline for initiative campaigns to submit signatures to the Oregon Secretary of State to qualify for the November ballot. Two measures have been gathering signatures in attempts to improve Oregon cannabis laws, but it appears that only one, the Oregon Cannabis Tax Act (OCTA), will have enough signatures to qualify.
OCTA is a statutory proposal that will completely end cannabis and hemp prohibition for all adults and set up the framework for the state to establish licensed and regulated stores to sell cannabis to adults. An alternative measure – a constitutional measure that would have decriminalized personal amounts of cannabis for all adults – could not overcome the stringent signature requirements for initiatives as well as a lower-than-expected validity rate of the signatures. The OCTA campaign claims that they have over 165,000 signatures to submit, in hopes that enough signatures are valid to reach the 87,213 signatures needed to qualify for the Oregon ballot. The OCTA campaign was bolstered late in the signature gathering process with Oregon United Food and Commercial Workers Union and Oregon Students for Sensible Drug Policy heavily promoting the signature gathering drive.
Oregon hasn’t voted on a legalization measure since 1986, when the Oregon Marijuana Initiative garnered about 26% of the vote. The state legalized medicinal cannabis in 1998 with about 55% of the vote, although proposals to legalize licensed and regulated medical cannabis dispensaries did not garner enough votes to pass in 2004 and 2010. Across the country, support for cannabis legalization has increased with both the Gallup and Rasmussen polls showing more than 50% support. A recent poll found that 43% of Oregon voters would support legalization if it was on the ballot in 2014; hopefully, a majority of 2012 voters will finally support an end to cannabis prohibition. Fortunately, presidential elections tend to bring out younger voters, who are more likely to support legalization, than mid-term elections.
Whether Oregon joins Colorado and Washington or not, 2012 appears to be a pivotal year for the cannabis community. We will have an opportunity to help end prohibition statewide in at least two states, as well as helping local measures and candidates across the country. We have already demonstrated our political power when we are motivated, united and have the correct message. Let’s take that power and make waves in 2012 and beyond.