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Will Oregon Have Three Marijuana Initiatives This Year?


new approach oregonBy Phillip Smith

Oregonians going to the polls this November could have the chance to vote twice to legalize marijuana, or maybe even three times. Two separate legalization initiative campaigns are underway there, and both have a good shot at actually making it onto the ballot. And one of those campaigns also includes a constitutional amendment that could also make the ballot.

Oregon very nearly joined Colorado and Washington in legalizing it in 2012, when the underfunded Oregon Cannabis Tax Act (OCTA) got more than 47% of the vote. Prospects have only gotten brighter since then. A recent poll showed solid majorities for a specific tax and regulate question (58%) and for a generic legalization question (64%).

And even sectors of the state’s political establishment have suggested that legalization is an idea whose time has come. Gov. John Kitzhaber (D) urged the legislature to pass a bill that would put its version of a legalization initiative before the voters. That bill died when the session ran out, but it garnered some support in Salem.

This year, one initiative campaign, the Oregon Cannabis Tax Act campaign, a double-pronged effort led by the controversial but persevering medical marijuana entrepreneur Paul Stanford, who put OCTA on the ballot in 2012, is already well into the signature-gathering process, while the other, led by New Approach Oregon, is awaiting resolution of a legal challenge to its ballot language and chomping at the bit for petitioners to hit the streets.

The clock is ticking. Initiative petitioners have until July 3 to hand in the 87,213 valid voter signatures to qualify for the November ballot. The bar for the constitutional amendment is set higher, at 116,284 valid voter signatures.

The Oregon Cannabis Tax Act (OCTA) and the Oregon Cannabis Amendment (OCA) are both Stanford creations. OCTA would create a commission to regulate marijuana cultivation, processing, and sales, while the OCA would amend the state constitution to remove both criminal and civil sanctions for “the private personal use, possession or production of cannabis.” The OCA would allow the state to reasonably regulate and tax marijuana commerce if it decided to.

“We started gathering in early September, and we’re well on the way now,” said Stanford. “It’s all a matter of money, and we’ve got some. And we’ve got time — until July 3. We can easily get the rest of the way by then. We will be on the ballot.”

The 2014 version of OCTA has some changes from the 2012 version. Gone is the historical preamble, which took up a quarter of the original OCTA, and which was derided by opponents. The new OCTA also adds limits for personal cultivation and possession, but generous ones: 24 ounces and 24 plants.

“We got 47% allowing people to grow and possess unlimited amounts for personal use, but people want limits,” said Stanford. “Our limits are the same as those the legislature passed for medical patients in 2005.”

The new OCTA retains the idea of marijuana commission to oversee legal commerce, but it has given authority over all appointments to that commission to the governor. The 2012 version had a majority of commission members elected by license marijuana business owners, a feature that left it open to charges it was creating a regulatory body captive to the industry it was supposed to regulate.

“The media portrayed this as akin to putting Philip Morris in charge of regulating the tobacco industry,” Stanford explained. “So we put back to all appointed by the governor.”

OCTA can win this year, and OCTA could have won in 2012 if it could have attracted sufficient funding, Stanford argued.

“In Washington, they spent $7 million; in Colorado, they spent $4 million; here in Oregon, we spent also half a million, and we only lost by 112,000 votes,” he said. “Another $200,000 probably would have done it. It’s the inverse law of cannabis reform funding — the better an initiative is for the people and the planet, the less funding it gets from major funders.”

While OCTA is getting some outside financial help this year — Texas head shop owner Michael Kleinman’s Foundation for Constitutional Protection has kicked in $97,000 so far, and Stanford said he hoped to announce a new funder this week — it’s gotten no support from big money groups like the Drug Policy Alliance, the Marijuana Policy Project, or Graham Boyd, the man with access to the funds of the late Peter Lewis.

New Approach Oregon’s Control, Regulation, and Taxation of Marijuana and Industrial Hemp Act and its near-identical placeholder companion, the Control, Regulation and Taxation of Marijuana and Hemp Act of 2014 has, the group says, access to funding to get on the ballot, but it faces an obstacle of a different sort — a legal challenge to its ballot language that has delayed signature gathering. That’s largely the reason for the second version of the initiative; it is so far unchallenged, and if the first one is blocked by the state Supreme Court, signature gathering can then begin on the second.

“We’re just waiting for our ballot title to get finalized, then we gather signatures,” said Anthony Johnson, campaign manager for New Approach Oregon. “We expect the challenge to be done by the first of May, and our signature-gathering firm has assured us that if we are collecting by the first of May, we will have plenty of time to get on the ballot,” he said.

“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,” he continued. While Johnson declined to get more specific about funding sources, he did say that “our funding team has always included the Drug Policy Alliance, as well as other national funders.”

The New Approach initiative would legalize the personal possession of up to eight ounces and allow for the cultivation of four plants. And instead of a marijuana commission, it would rely on the Oregon Liquor Control Commission to regulate marijuana commerce, with a tax set at $35 an ounce.

Both Oregon initiative campaigns appear to be well-positioned to make the ballot this year, and that makes it one of the most likely to join the ranks of the legalization states this year. Alaska should get there first — voters there go to the polls on their legalization initiative in August — and Washington, DC, where signature-gathering for a legalization initiative should get underway shortly, is the other locale likely to go in 2014. That looks like it for this year, but at least in Oregon, they could do it twice, or even thrice on one ballot. And both campaigns say they will vote for any initiative that legalizes marijuana.

“If he makes the ballot, we will support any measure that improves the status quo,” said Johnson.

“Or course I’ll be voting for New Approach Oregon, and I encourage everyone else to,” said Stanford.

That’s the spirit.

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Johnny Green


  1. John Edwards on

    If both win, the one that got the most votes supercedes the one with fewer votes. So if I-21 wins, you can grow weed yourself, and buy it at stores. If I-22 wins, you can only buy it at stores. The tricky thing though is that if all the people that want to grow their own vote for 21 and not 22, but all the on-the-fence people only vote for for 22, then probably neither will win.

  2. PeaceOnEarth on

    Thanks for you reply,

    You are sounding a lot like Steve. And I don’t mean Steve D’Angelo. That’s probably why you are calling me paranoid and saying that I am Russ. In any case, no offense taken bro.

    MMJ did not embrace and DID NOT SUPPORT Richard Lee’s 2010 proposal in California and after it failed, has been begging for regulation, ever since the feds are showing up knocking on some of their doors. Some in the MMJ movement rabidly opposed I-502 in Washington State, so there is already a clear history. I am not saying that everyone is a extremist, but there are a number of them who have influence in the movement who are.

    An ounce of weed will last for weeks or even months to most people, if it’s for recreational purposes. If more is needed, what’s the problem with going to the store every couple weeks? After all, that’s what most people do when they want a beer after work or during the weekend. Once again, I hope something passes in Oregon if it gets on the ballot this fall, I am just pointing out the fact, that in order to appeal to the middle of the road voters (or more conservative ones, like you prefer to call them) you need to lower the limits for possession.

    Have a nice weekend James, ;-)

  3. Also, there you go again blaming the MMJ community, lol. I find it completely hilarious that you believe we need to make a more restrictive measure and have lower possession limits to appease the more “conservative” type of voters, but then act like the MMJ community was responsible for the defeat of Prop 19, when they make up a small fraction of people compared to those types of voters, and an even smaller fraction of people compared to the whole state of California. Great logic!

    Also an ounce of weed is a drop in the bucket. Who on earth is going to yield 1 oz off even a 4 plant grow, let alone 6+ plants, heck off 1 plant if you know how to grow right. It takes 16 oz of plant material to make 2 ounces of oil. Sorry, but those limits won’t last in a legal environment. Too low and unrealistic.

  4. Calm down James, I am not involved with anybody and had nothing to do with I-502.. I am just a guy personally interested and following the ending of prohibition phenomenon. I am not being paranoid, I am just pointing out what the middle of the road voters (non-Cannabis users) may digest better. And I see your point with alcohol quantities not being so limited, but alcohol doesn’t carry the stigma brought by the years of negative propaganda and lies that Cannabis has had for over 70 years now. About 3/4 of individuals, if not more use alcohol regularly or socially. Cannabis users may be, including occasional social users 5-10% of the population.

    It’s not that I am trying to be against the measures. I hope they pass, but you have to be able to compromise in order to accomplish your goals. And the reality on the ground is that capping possession at a lower level will boost the chances of electoral success for both of them, particularly if you can close the gap in conservative Eastern Oregon. .

    I should also indicate, that proposition 19 did not pass because it was opposed to a good measure, by the medical Cannabis industry of California, not so much because of the language of possession allowance, which was also……. You guessed it, one ounce. Prop 19 was polling very well most of the way, until it was sabotaged and derailed by some in the MMJ community.

    Have a nice day!

  5. The typical response, as expected from the “big money” community, the ones who brought you horribly flawed I-502 that is causing a lot of problems with the way it is being implemented…

    We are moving beyond those times. It appears we as a community don’t always need your big bucks and support to back these initiatives. We don’t have a limit on how much alcohol we can possess. Why are you arguing for strong limits on cannabis? The only reason could be big bucks. Nobody cares about Project SAM, their influence, and what they think. Measure 80 did as well as heavily funded Prop 19, now sit back and let legalization take effect, without your paranoid delusions about the outcome getting in the way.

  6. PeaceOnEarth on

    Thanks for your reply James,

    My name is not Russ and I am just pointing the obvious James. If they make the ballot, I hope they pass, but you can deny the fact that lower limits would be an easier sale to voters than these two proposals. Don’t be surprised if DPA and MPP pull out from New Approach’s initiative for a 2016 reset.

    Have a nice day and weekend,


  7. PeaceOnEarth on

    I agree with all of what you are saying Bob, but let me put it this way. Have OCTA gone with an ounce and a few plants cultivation limits in 2012, there would be three states with legal recreational sales and a lot more momentum now.

    You are not going to convince, otherwise liberal, female voters that allowing a 21 year old neighbor/college roommate to have 24 or even 8 ounces of dried Cannabis is good for their underage kids. Let’s not even talk about the silent generation and boomers born in the 1940’s. Even if you win, you loose a few percentage points to make it a decisive victory. You can also have a nail biter waiting on the last vote. You don’t need a divisive measure or campaign that would probably get a lot of negative attention on conservative news outlets or open the door for an organized campaign against the measure by project SAM.

    You need something that has the highest chance of passing and the only way to make that is to make it more palatable to the middle of the road voters. I am glad that they are working hard on the issue, but they need to amend the language and lower those limits on possession to around the same amounts that Colorado, Washington State, Uruguay and the Alaska initiative are allowing. The comparisons charts between them and Oregon are going to be on the news and the fear mongering will be a lot easier.

    One ounce is a slam dunk, two is a lay up, but even with very good shooters these measures are three pointers.

  8. Lots has changed since 2012. Legal cannabis is a reality now. 3 other states would have done this by the time this goes to the ballot. The media has drastically changed the way Cannabis is talked of. Also other states may be doing medical cannabis around this time.
    Plus these guys have got it on the ballot b4. Compared to 2012 a shitload of stuff has changed. They have a much better shot this time.

  9. Why go for 24 ounces/24 plants and 8 ounces on the initiatives? The amounts should be more like 1-2 ounces and 4-12 plants. The argument is going to be, that with such high limits for personal possession, that the chances of Cannabis getting into the hands of minors and being taken out of state will increase exponentially. Who the hell needs that much herb for recreational purposes anyway? That is not going to appeal to the middle.

    Oregon should wait for 2016, have a more realistic initiative put on the ballot and wait for the demographics to be with the wind really blowing in its favor and not risk it in midterm elections year. I would be shocked if any of them passes with 7 1/2 months to go till election day and 3 1/2 months to gather almost 90,000 signatures . If both fail, it will give a tremendous amount of ammunition and new life to Sabet, Patrick Kennedy and every police chief association in the country. It will look very bad, because if you are unable to get it passed in liberal Oregon, then how about other states? It will slam the breaks very hard on the movement, at a time where it is even advancing steadily in very red states (Utah, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Alabama) with CBD oils and hemp laws. Let the cause build more momentum, concentrate on Alaska and the medical initiative in Florida and give prohibition its fatal blow in a couple years.

  10. Looks like Alaska wont be the only state to legalize this year. Many interesting developments happening in the states.

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