Oregon Now Has One Legalization Initiative

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Paul Stanford is a long time legalization activist in Oregon.

Oregon is down to just one ballot initiative that could make pot legal in the fall.

Paul Stanford, a longtime marijuana activist in the state, announced he was quitting his effort to put two legalization initiatives on the November ballot. With few voter signatures and little money,purple and green Stanford acknowledged he wouldn’t meet the July 3 petition deadline.

Stanford proposed two constitutional amendments that would have legalized marijuana and allowed adults over 21 to possess up to a pound and a half. His group, Cannabis Common Sense, spent several months gathering signatures but fell short.

As of June 20, Stanford said, his activists had collected just 50,000 signatures out of 116,284 needed to make the ballot. And it was clear he was never going to get the big money needed to push a successful initiative.

Stanford Campaign Fell Apart

It didn’t help that the campaign failed to pay many of its staffers – or that they then went on strike. By that point, the effort was descending into chaos.

Stanford got a legalization measure on the ballot in 2012, but it was defeated, 53 percent to 47 percent. That was the same election in which Colorado and Washington voters legalized weed.

Many observers say Stanford failed in 2012 and would have failed again this year because his proposals were so permissive. That was a major reason he was unable to attract money from big-wallet donors, then or now.

“I liked ours better, but the big multimillionaire funders didn’t,” Standford said of his initiative.

Vote on Legalization Is Likely Anyway

Stanford’s decision to quit doesn’t mean Oregon voters won’t get a second crack at legalization in November. A proposal by another group, New Approach Oregon, is likely to make the ballot.

That initiative would legalize marijuana and allow possession of up to half a pound of weed in a residence and an ounce in public. Consumers would be barred from using pot in public.

Paul Stanford is a long time legalization activist in Oregon.
Paul Stanford is a long time legalization activist in Oregon.

But this proposal wouldn’t change the state constitution, unlike Stanford’s approach. It would set up a framework for legal weed and leave details to the state Liquor Commission. Successful ballot campaigns typically aim for 25 to 30 percent more signatures than they need, and New Approach was close to that goal.

Because it’s not a constitutional amendment, the New Approach petition requires fewer signatures, 87,000. The group had collected more than 100,000 as of June 16. A spokesman for New Approach said the group planned to submit the petition to state officials in late June.

Money Goes to the Other Plan

The New Approach measure has attracted exactly the kind of financial backing Stanford lacked. The family of the late insurance executive Peter Lewis gave $250,000 to the group. Other big donors have stepped forward as well.

Oregon will likely be one of two states deciding on legalization this year. Alaskans will also vote on the issue.

Support for legal pot is strong in Oregon, as it was in neighboring Washington before that state legalized. The general consensus in Oregon is that the 2012 initiative failed because it was too liberal. This year, voters will face a more conservative, more restrictive ballot item – one they’re more likely to pass.

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