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Initiatives To Legalize Marijuana In Oregon In Desperate Need Of Assistance


homer simpson dohIt Will Take A Miracle ($$$$$) For Oregon To Legalize in 2012

By Bradley Steinman, President of Lewis and Clark Law School SSDP

Unless a miracle occurs, the people of Oregon will be denied the chance to vote on the issue of marijuana legalization in 2012. Both of our state’s two legalization initiative campaigns gathered enough signatures to make the early turn-in deadline. The signature validity rates for Oregon’s two legalization petition initiatives are hot off the presses from the Oregon Secretary of State Elections Division. The results are dismal. Like many of my fellow Oregon marijuana activists, my heart has sunk. The reality of having two competing legalization initiatives is a bitter pill to swallow.

To appear on the November 2012 election ballot as a voter initiated statute, I-9, a.k.a. the Oregon Cannabis Tax Act (OCTA) needs a total of 87,213 signatures of registered Oregon voters by July 6. Seeking to legalize marijuana by voter initiated constitutional amendment is I-24, a.k.a. Citizens for Sensible Law Enforcement (CSLE). Voter initiated amendments require more signatures than initiated statutes to make the ballot in Oregon, so a total of 116,283 valid signatures is required to ensure CSLE gets on the ballot.

The proof is in the pudding. OCTA turned in 107,992 unverified signatures on 5/25/12, the early turn-in deadline. After inspection, OCTA was found to have 55,869 valid signatures, and achieved a signature validity rate of only 58.47% after discounting for invalid signatures. CSLE turned in whopping total of 122,337 unverified signatures to the Secretary of State on 5/25/12, and was found after inspection to have only 63,804 valid signatures! That is, a signature validity rate of only 54.1%.

As the July 6, 2012 deadline creeps closer, OCTA is 31,344 signatures short of making the ballot and CSLE is 52,480 signatures short. Neither is likely to come up with the amount of signatures necessary in such a short amount of time. It would take a miracle at this point in the game.

The signature validity rates, while disappointing, are not surprising. This of course, is in light of the lesson we should have gleaned from Colorado’s Amendment 64 campaign. The streamlined, ultra-strategic Colorado campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, spearheaded by Sensible Colorado and S.A.F.E.R. faced down and overcame extreme scrutiny from the Secretary of State Election officials earlier this year.

On January 4, 2012, the Colorado campaign turned in 163,362 signatures, almost double the 86,105 signatures required to make the ballot. On February 3, 2012, the Colorado Secretary of State declared the petition insufficient by 2,409 signatures. Within two weeks, the Colorado guys had collected 14,151 more signatures, of which 6,770 were found to be valid, enabling them to secure their spot on the ballot with 8 months to mobilize a campaign, fundraise, and train volunteers. Their signature validity rate was around 52.7%. So, we saw what type of battle we would face come July.

The sad part of it all is the blatant obviousness of what went wrong for Oregon, and how simply the issue could have been avoided. Recall the Oregon SSDP Cannabis Law Reform Conference, held on February 25, 2012 at Lewis & Clark Law School. Now, consider the background facts of what we knew Colorado was facing, and try to consider what motivated Oregon’s SSDP chapters to put together the unity conference. We were not being naive and idealistic, we were being strategic. Having multiple competing initiative campaigns would exponentially decrease the likelihood of getting something on the ballot, especially if we still had 3 initiatives, as we did at the time of the conference in February. Still, the blame is a shared one, on all Oregonian activists. We tried, we failed, and now we must learn from our mistakes and move forward.

It seems likely now that the people of Colorado and Washington will be the sole deciders of this crucial issue of national significance come election day. By failing to work together as a movement in Oregon, we failed to support our brothers and sisters around the country and around the world seeking a more sensible approach to cannabis laws. By loving individual glory more than we cared about those harmed by the exorbitantly costly, embarrassingly antiquated, and extremely deadly cannabis prohibition laws, we failed to help make the world a better place. If we had worked together, and united under the banner of one initiative in Oregon, we would be voting to legalize in November.

Unfathomable as it may be to some of Oregon’s old guard movement leadership, (I won’t name names), there isn’t one individual in Oregon that can legalize marijuana all by his or herself. It takes unity. It takes teamwork. It takes doing away with egoism and pride, and fierce tribalism based on entrenched economic interests or perceived political clout. It will take humility, compassion, unity of purpose and vision, a willingness to do your part and allowing others to do what they are good at. Above all, it will take love for our people, for the plant itself, and for freedom. Nobody can be the ‘Michael Jordan’ of legalization, because it takes everyone doing their part to succeed. Nobody is too big to do the dirty work, and no volunteer is too insignificant to be considered an integral part of a campaign’s success.

We are going to continue on as we have in Oregon, marching forward one step at a time. Good luck to Colorado and Washington in 2012. For those of us disappointed Oregonians, I say let’s prepare for 2014, 2016, or however long it takes. To the members of Oregon’s ‘Old Guard,’ with their “my way or the high-way” attitudes, I want you to know that you guys got us this far. I know that all of your years of hard work, sacrifice, courage, and selflessness will pay off, but only if we rise above past differences, clannishness, and egoism.

As has become obvious to Oregon activists the last few weeks, the constitutional amendment campaign and statutory campaign could work together harmoniously more effectively than they could in isolation. There is no need to compete when the winds of change are blowing at our backs.

Help end cannabis-hemp prohibition in Oregon in 2012. All we need to do is make the ballot. The ‘movement’ in Oregon needs to get out of the way, and be able to present the issue to the people. The spotlight should rightfully be on the state and on the people.
Will Oregon join Colorado and Washington in 2012 and help ignite the national conversation? It will take a miracle.

Donate to OCTA and CSLE.


About Author

Johnny Green


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  2. Indeed, and we did make it! It was close, but now it’s three states voting on some level of legalization. And I’m proud to say that Oregon’s measure is the most free of the three!

  3. About 12500 signatures were disqualified before the count began due to problems with the signature sheets or gatherers.

    The campaign has tightened their procedures and future validity rates should be higher.

    The author conceded too early. They’ll make it!

  4. What am I missing here? The OCTA turned in 55869 valid signatures out of 107992, which would be a validity rate of about 51.7%. Yet you’re claiming a rate of over 58%. Going off of 58%, the new signature goal (160k) would be about 5,000 signatures more than needed, but based on a rate of 51.7%, it’s about 5,000 signatures shy.

    It seems like a hell of a drive has taken place, bringing us from 108k to 157k in about five weeks, but if the validity rate is so low, all that effort might still be for naught…

  5. Were the petitioners collecting signatures for both initiatives, or just for one?
    Cooperation and mutual support might make a critical difference.
    Oregons fractured movement has been its own worst enemy for decades.
    Other states have the same problem. Even when an initiative makes the ballot, there are voices within the community saying Vote No..
    It screwed up California.
    It is screwing up Colorado and Washington.
    Who wins when reform loses? The Narcs.
    Certain purists in California thought they would be worse off if 9 passed.
    Now they are fragmented, can’t get enough signatures, the feds are shutting down the dispensaries, and big donors to reform are witholding support.
    Wolfe and Co. Are new in Oregon. Some mistakes will always happen.
    Stanford and OCTA have been around for 20 years, and still struggle to field a successful signature drive.
    A combination of mutual support and real professionalism in signature gathering and campaigning are needed in all the states in order to get er done…

  6. Ok, you didn’t get enough this time. I assume you still have copies of all the signatures. It would be foolish to throw that all away. Spend the next year or 2 going through each one and calling or writing each one – verifying info, asking each one if they have friends and relatives who would be interested in signing up for next time. This then becomes your base for the next initiative. With these signatures already gathered, you don’t have to start from scratch and cold call. They’re all MJ sympathizers already.

  7. eating_sunshine on

    Mr Green,
    Did you volunteer your expertise? Why aren’t the same people who ousted the AG not hard at work here? I smell some medical greed.

  8. I agree 100%, but the fault also lies with collection strategies. A lot of pages turned in for the OCTA were improperly filled out. That indicates poor volunteer training by the campaign. Also many signatures were found to be duplicates, invalidating a mandatory 400 signatures per occurrence. I was never once asked by a signature collector if I had already signed. Let’s face it, sometime stoners forget! If this is to happen again more time needs to be taken to properly fundraise first, that way the campaign can benefit from properly trained paid signature gatherers. Widely dispersed signature locations at headshops and dispensaries are great and all, but it wasn’t until this past sunday that I ever saw anybody collecting signatures. More people than regular smokers support legalization. A more widespread distribution of signature gatherers would be much more effective. Additionally neither campaign had enough media attention. though OCTA was better after they got Willie Nelson to endorse it, there was not enough traditional or new media exposure. THis is the 21st century. How hard is it to get a good social media coordinator to get the world out better? The websites were rarely updated, the twitter feeds a joke, and who cares about Facebook anymore… Now with the endorsement of the food union, there might be a chance for OCTA, but it will be down to the wire. I would have gotten involved with the campaigns, but I just smelled too much ego coming from the chief petitioners. Next time hire a professional from outside the movement to coordinate the next campaign. I still think OCTA has a long shot, so everybody that can, do your part.

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