Marijuana law reform activists in the Pacific Northwest are moving ahead with renewed efforts to win legalization at the ballot box. In the last few days, legalization initiatives have been filed with state authorities in Oregon and Washington.
In Washington, Sensible Washington, the folks behind last year's failed effort, have filed an initiative that removes all criminal penalties for adults who use, possess, produce, transport, or distribute marijuana. Unlike last year's initiative, which lost critical support for its failure to address regulation of the marijuana market, this year's version explicitly directs the state legislature to enact a regulatory scheme.
Sensible Washington is aiming for this year's November election ballot, despite pleas from some national and state reform figures to hold off until the presidential election year in 2012.
"We're pleased to again put the important question of marijuana legalization before the public," said Seattle attorney Douglas Hiatt, Sensible Washington’s chair and initiative coauthor. "We’re better funded and better organized this year and we look forward to giving the public an opportunity to vote on this issue in November. We've changed last year’s initiative to reflect concerns about civil regulations of marijuana, and our new initiative has language that clearly directs the state legislature to regulate the responsible adult use of marijuana."
The group expects to start signature-gathering this month. They need 241,153 valid voter signatures to make the November ballot.
In Oregon, the Oregon Cannabis Tax Act (OCTA 2012) initiative is back. Organizers turned in 2,200 signatures on January 4 to start the ballot title creation process. The initiative has until July 2012 to turn in nearly 86,000 valid voter signatures to make the November 2012 ballot. In an email to supporters, D. Paul Stanford of the Campaign for the Restoration and Regulation of Hemp vowed to gather at least 130,000 signatures to ensure a comfortable cushion. The initiative is also supported by Oregon NORML.
OCTA 2012 would allow Oregonians 21 or over to possess and grow marijuana. It would also create an Oregon Cannabis Commission to oversee the regulation of commercial cultivation and distribution. The commission would sell marijuana through its own outlets, similar to state liquor stores.
And so the next round begins.