Oregon is a step closer to legalizing marijuana.
State officials have cleared a petition seeking to make possession of cannabis legal. The petition will now appear on the November ballot, giving voters a chance to join Colorado and Washington State in allowing recreational weed.
“Initiative Petition 53 has qualified for the November ballot,” said Tony Green, communications director for the Oregon secretary of state’s office.
The initiative would make it legal to possess up to eight ounces of marijuana at home and carry up to one ounce in public. The Oregon Liquor Control Commission would oversee the cannabis industry, the same arrangement used in neighboring Washington.
The ballot proposal would also impose a marijuana tax that would be used to fund schools, law enforcement, and drug education efforts.
Initiative Is Likely to Pass
Colorado and Washington legalized marijuana in the 2012 election. The first recreational pot shops opened in Colorado in January, while Washington’s first stores opened July 8. More businesses are slated to open in both states.
“I hear the drumbeats from Washington and Colorado,” said Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber, a Democrat. “I want to make sure we have a thoughtful regulatory system. The legislature would be the right place to craft that.”
Kitzhaber has said he supports legal recreational weed. Oregon already has a medical marijuana system, and it was the first state to decriminalize possession of cannabis, in 1973.
Legalization is likely to pass. In recent poll, 57 percent of residents who are likely to vote in the 2014 election said they want to make weed legal.
Legalization Is Spreading
The petition is backed by New Approach Oregon, a pro-marijuana advocacy group. It’s the second time voters have faced a legalization question in recent years.
Oregon was the third state to vote on legal weed in 2012. Unlike in Washington and Colorado, the initiative in Oregon failed, 53 percent to 47 percent.
Another effort to put the issue on the ballot this year also failed. That effort, led by activist Paul Stanford, never attracted the kind of big funding needed to get an initiative to voters.
Oregon is now one of two states that could vote to legalize in November. The other, Alaska, is likewise considered a good bet for success, since pot has long been decriminalized in that state. Residents of Washington, D.C., could also vote to legalize.
“With legalization initiatives qualified in two states, with another in D.C. likely to be certified soon – plus several recent wins on the floor of the Republican-controlled U.S. House, 2014 is shaping up to be the biggest year for marijuana reform yet,” said Tom Angell, chairman of Marijuana Majority. “If we win these legalization initiatives, it’s not only likely that more states will follow suit in 2016, but that presidential candidates on both sides of the aisle are going to see the value in being perceived as pro-reform.”