Thursday, May 13, 2010

Effort to get legalization measure on ballot grows

The campaign aiming to tax and regulate marijuana through the Oregon
Cannabis Tax Act (OCTA) is circulating petitions to get the measure on
the ballot for November's general election.

By creating a committee to oversee the taxation and regulation of
marijuana, OCTA would effectively decriminalize the cultivation,
possession and personal use of marijuana in Oregon. The measure would be
the first law of its kind in the nation.

However, OCTA advocate Matt Switzer said cannabis regulation is a
nascent movement, with Californians set to vote on the legalization of
cannabis in November and Washington and Oregon cannabis legalization
advocates in a similar predicament: scrambling to pool enough signatures
to give the proposals life on election day.

OCTA supporters admit they have a long way to go before the measure can
be brought to the ballot for a vote.

"The proposed initiative needs 100,000 signatures by July before it
can be placed on the November ballot," Switzer said. "We have
less than 5,000 signatures."

OCTA supporters reference an alliance they have with Law Enforcement
Against Prohibition to fortify their case against the current
criminalization of cannabis.

LEAP Executive Director Jack Cole, a 26-year New Jersey state police
officer, said the injustice perpetuated by the current marijuana law has
him fighting in California to assure the passage of cannabis

"When you prohibit any drug, you create an underground market for
that drug, and that attracts criminal activity," Cole said.
"Marijuana — it's just a weed; it has zero value until we
say it's illegal, then the price artificially inflates, becomes so
obscenely high, that up until about a year ago when the economy took a
turn, marijuana was worth more, ounce for ounce, than gold."

Cole said movements toward taxing and regulating cannabis were fighting
for ballot measures in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New Hampshire,
Nevada, California, Washington and Oregon.

The changes proposed by OCTA would not interfere with current medical
marijuana laws defined by the Oregon Medical Marijuana Act. Switzer said
the proposal, which would be ballot measure 73 if enough signatures are
gathered come July, does not yet face any organized opposition, but
opposition will probably develop if the proposal gains traction in the

"There will most likely be some backlash from those agencies who
will likely see a decrease in revenue, along with marijuana farmers who
may see the exorbitant price they charge decrease as the black market no
longer will have a monopoly on the plant," Switzer said.

Cole predicted opposition would stem from law enforcement agencies, who
he said receive 20 percent of their current budget from state revenue
provided for the war on drugs.
Switzer said the challenge precluding the revolutionary changes proposed
by OCTA is not only opposition from without, but hesitation from within.

"Stoners are chronically bad at engaging with the political process,
and many have reservations signing their names and addresses endorsing
the legalization of a substance the government has for years lied
about," he said. "We are trying to stress that this is a civil
rights issue and that American citizens should not be imprisoned because
of harmless beliefs and actions simply because someone saw they could
make money from persecuting a large portion of the country."

No comments: