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Three Marijuana Legalization Initiatives in Oregon [FEATURE]

Activists in Oregon are serious about legalizing marijuana. There are currently three different marijuana legalization initiative campaigns aimed at the November 2012 ballot underway there and, this year, there are signs the state's fractious marijuana community is going to try to overcome sectarian differences and unify so that the overarching goal -- freeing the weed -- can be attained.

The three initiatives are in varying stages of advancement, with one already engaged in signature-gathering, one just approved for a ballot title, and the third trying to obtain the 1,000 signatures necessary to be granted a ballot title and be approved for signature-gathering.

The initiative currently furthest down the path toward the ballot box, is the Oregon Cannabis Tax Act of 2012 (Initiative Petition #9), sponsored by veteran activist and medical marijuana entrepreneur Paul Stanford. It would allow adult Oregonians to possess and grow their own marijuana. It would allow Oregon farmers to grow hemp. And it would license Oregon farmers to grow marijuana to be sold at state-licensed pot stores. An earlier version of OCTA failed to make the ballot last year.

OCTA has been approved for signature-gathering, and OCTA spokespersons said it had so far collected more than 30,000 signatures. It needs some 87,000 valid voter signatures to make the ballot, so OCTA's goal is to gather about 130,000 to have a comfortable cushion to account for invalid signatures.

The initiative next in line is a proposed constitutional amendment (Initiative Petition #24) to repeal the state's marijuana laws sponsored by the Oregon Marijuana Policy Initiative, which is supported by numerous in-state groups. "Except for actions that endanger minors or public safety, neither the criminal offenses and sanctions nor the laws of civil seizure and forfeiture of this state shall apply to the private personal use, possession or production of marijuana by adults 21 years of age and older," the amendment says. "The State may enact laws and regulations consistent with this amendment to reasonably define, limit and regulate the use, possession, production, sale or taxation of marijuana under state law."

Because it is a constitutional amendment and not an initiative, the OMPI must climb a higher hurdle to qualify for the ballot. Instead of 87,000 valid signatures, it needs 114,000.

The initiative still in the initial phase of qualifying for a ballot title is from Sensible Oregon, a coalition formed this year that includes Oregon NORML and a variety of other groups. The Sensible Oregon initiative "would remove existing civil and criminal penalties for adults twenty one years of age, who cultivate, possess, transport, exchange or use marijuana" and require the legislature to come up with a regulatory scheme.

The Sensible Oregon initiative has gathered about 400 of the initial 1,000 needed to win a ballot title. Activists are gathering them on a volunteer basis.

"We don’t have any paid petitioners; we're working strictly as volunteers," said Oregon NORML board member and Sensible Oregon spokesperson Anna Diaz, who added that it is difficult to obtain funding at this early stage. "When we talk to various funding sources, we need to wait for the ballot title before anyone will take us very seriously. Once we do that, our hope is that we can go after some big funding."

Funding is also an issue for the OCTA campaign, said campaign spokesperson Jennifer Alexander. "We had to stop our signature gathering effort because we need to do some major fundraising," she said. "We have some volunteers, but we're trying to raise about $150,000 to fund the rest of the signature drive. If we can raise the money, we can do it in eight or ten weeks."

OCTA will be the initiative "most accepted by the public," Alexander said. "It also addresses hemp, which would be a huge economic and environmental boon to the Oregon economy, and it provides the regulatory structure that Oregonians are most familiar with, similar to how we handle alcohol. You can grow your own or you can buy it from the store, and the money goes back to the state, which generates revenue and a regulated environment."

Last year, Oregon NORML supported OCTA, but it is going down a different path this year. "Paul Stanford has been trying to pass some form of OCTA for about 20 years, and we didn't want to do the same thing and get the same results," said Diaz. "At the same time, the Sensible Washington people had come forward with the idea of removing all criminal penalties, and we decided that would be more appealing to voters and a better model to attempt," Diaz said. "While we are not disparaging Paul or his efforts, OCTA has just failed one too many times for us."

Doug McVay, a long-time activist now (again) working for Voter Power, the group behind Oregon's successful 1998 medical marijuana initiative, said Voter Power supports any and all of the initiatives, but is concentrating its limited resources on the OMPI constitutional amendment and a second initiative that would create a state-regulated medical marijuana dispensary system.

"In Oregon, we have three chances to make history, and that's exciting," he said. "All of them or any of them could create a ripple, hell, a tidal wave across the country. I will be working to help them make the ballot and working to make their passage a reality."

Factionalism and in-fighting has been the bane of the marijuana movement in Oregon, as in so many other places, but this time around, there is a lot of talk about unity and supporting whatever will work.

"We will get behind other initiatives if ours doesn't work out," said Diaz. "There is also talk about all three initiatives doing polling to see which would really fly, and all of us jumping on that. Surprisingly, this is one time where I'm hearing proponents of every proposed initiative suggesting we should all support each other. It's not a matter of competing against each other."

"We're all trying to end prohibition and these are just different models to do so," said OCTA's Alexander. "I love that we have so many going to the ballot. We have all pretty much agreed that whichever one makes the ballot, we will support it. There have been a lot of people picking apart the different initiatives, but we have to get behind each other and work for the common goal."

That would be a very good thing. A marijuana movement unified around a legalization initiative would be able to concentrate on real opposing forces instead of having to defend itself from sniping from within. We don't want to see a repeat of last year's experience in California, where "Stoners against Prop 19" types had initiative organizers looking over their shoulders to fend off attacks from within the ranks even as they tried to confront the organized opposition.

OR
United States

Missouri Marijuana Legalization Initiatives Filed

Twin initiatives that would regulate marijuana sales and production and legalize the possession of pot by adults were filed with the state Secretary of State's office Wednesday. The initiatives were filed by a new coalition called Show-Me Cannabis.

You could grow 100 square feet's worth of these if a Missouri initiative becomes law. (photo by the author)
One of the initiatives would amend the state constitution; the other would revise state statutes. The Secretary of State's office has a month to approve their language. Once one or both are approved, signature gathering aimed at putting the initiative on the November 2012 ballot could get underway.

The initiative would:

  • Remove marijuana from the state's schedule of controlled substances;
  • Legalize marijuana possession by adults over 21 (no amount specified);
  • Legalize the cultivation of up to 100 square feet of marijuana for personal use;
  • Allow for licensed commercial marijuana cultivation and sales;
  • Allow the legislature to enact a tax of up to $100 a pound on marijuana sold for personal use;
  • Allow for medical marijuana use with a doctor's recommendation and apply protections to doctors and patients;
  • Allow employers to fire workers who are impaired on the job;
  • Make no changes to impaired driving laws; and
  • Allow for the production of industrial hemp.

"The state presently spends millions of tax dollars incarcerating citizens who use cannabis, depriving those imprisoned of the ability to earn a living, pay taxes and care for their families," said initiative backer Fred Raines, Professor Emeritus of Economics at Washington University. "Meanwhile, the law of supply and demand continues to support an unending criminal enterprise. The social and economic costs of prohibition continue to far outweigh any benefits. It's time we acknowledge that and move forward."

Also backing the campaign are the Missouri affiliate of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, NORML chapters in St. Louis, Kansas City, Joplin; the MU campus in Columbia, the MSSU campus in Joplin, Students for Sensible Drug Policy, and the medical marijuana group Sensible Missouri.

Missouri is now at least the sixth state where efforts to get marijuana legalization on the November 2012 ballot are underway. The others are California, Colorado, Massachusetts, Oregon and Washington.

Jefferson City, MO
United States

Colorado Marijuana Initiative Campaign Gets Underway

Signature gathering began last Thursday for an initiative that would end marijuana prohibition in Colorado and create a system in which its sale would be taxed and regulated. Sponsored by the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, the initiative could be only the first of several competing marijuana initiatives aiming at Colorado's November 2012 ballot.

The initiative would allow you to grow six of these or go the pot shop and buy some. (image via wikimedia.org)
But this initiative is not only the first one out of the gate -- its language was approved by state officials yesterday -- it is also backed by leading state and national groups. The initiative's backers include Mason Tvert and SAFER Colorado and Brian Vicente and Sensible Colorado, as well as national players the Drug Policy Alliance, the Marijuana Policy Project, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, NORML, and Students for Sensible Drug Policy.

That means it is likely to come up with the resources to hurdle the relatively low bar of gathering 86,000 valid voter signatures in the next 180 days and actually be on the ballot next year.

"Voters in Colorado are ready to end marijuana prohibition and begin regulating and taxing it in a manner similar to alcohol," said Vicente, one of the initiative's two formal proponents. "By regulating and taxing marijuana like alcohol Colorado can tightly control its production and sale, generate tens of millions of dollars in new tax revenue, and redirect our limited law enforcement resources toward serious crimes."

According to the campaign, the Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act of 2012 would:

  • Remove criminal penalties for the private possession of up to one ounce of marijuana, and for the home-growing of up to six marijuana plants in an enclosed locked space, similar to the number allowed under current medical marijuana laws;
  • Direct the Department of Revenue to establish a tightly regulated system through which it licenses retail stores, cultivation facilities, product manufacturing facilities, and testing facilities;
  • Require the general assembly to enact an excise tax of up to 15% on the wholesale sale of marijuana applied at the point of transfer from the cultivation facility to a retail store or product manufacturer (sales tax will also be applied at the point of retail sales);
  • Direct the general assembly to establish a system of regulating the cultivation, processing, and sale of industrial hemp;
  • Give cities or counties the right to ban marijuana establishments either through elected officials or via citizen initiative;
  • Leave current impaired driving laws intact; and
  • Preserve the right of employers to maintain their current employment policies (meaning those employers who use drug tests could still fire someone who tests positive).

"This will be a high-energy, volunteer-powered grassroots campaign," said initiative proponent Tvert. "We're excited to begin petitioning and speaking to voters one-on-one about the benefits of repealing the wasteful prohibition of marijuana and replacing it with a tightly controlled system in which it is regulated and taxed like alcohol."

The system the initiative would set up is more restrictive in some ways than today's alcohol regulation. For example, there are no legal limits on the amount of alcohol someone can possess. That means possession of more than an ounce or more than one's harvest would still be a criminal offense, as would growing more than six plants. 

The initiative's less-than-absolutist position has in turn helped motivate advocates of a more radical approach. One group working to bring what they call a "true legalization" initiative to the ballot is Legalize 2012, led by long-time Colorado activist Lauro Kriho. Kriho and company are still working on the language for their initiative, but have attacked the Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol initiative as not "legalization" and not "similar to alcohol."

Whether Legalize 2012 acts as a drag on the Like Alcohol initiative like Stoners Against Prop. 19 did in California last year or whether it boosts its prospects by making it appear that much more pragmatic and palatable to Colorado voters remains to be seen. It's going to be an interesting next year and a half in Colorado pot politics.

Denver, CO
United States

Not a Good Year for Marijuana So Far in Sacramento

Last Friday marked a critical deadline in the California legislature, and with the passing of that day, a number of marijuana reform measures saw their prospects snuffed out or deferred until next year, while some not so friendly measures are still alive. Friday was the last day to get bills out of the chamber where they were introduced; if they hadn't moved to the other chamber by then, they died.

The California Senate chamber. There's not a lot of good news coming out of Sacramento this year. (Image via Wikimedia.org)
On the medical marijuana front, Senate Bill 129, introduced by state Sen. Mark Leno (D-San Francisco), would have protected the employment rights of medical marijuana users, but stalled after passing out of the Senate Judiciary Committee. A similar bill passed the legislature in 2008, only to be vetoed by then Gov. Schwarzenegger (R), but support has since slipped among moderate Democrats and labor, according to California NORML.

Sen. Leno asked that the bill be put on the inactive bill while he attempts to gin up more support. That means the measure will be held over until January, when it can be reconsidered.

A bill that would have established a statewide commission to make recommendations on how to overcome the state's medical marijuana distribution mess, Senate Bill 626, also failed to move. That bill was bottled up in the Senate Appropriations Committee, and sponsor Sen. Ron Calderon (D-Los Angeles) is pondering how to revive it next year.

A couple of bills that did move were not favorable for medical marijuana dispensaries. Assembly Bill 1300, sponsored by Assemblyman Bob Blumenfield (D-Los Angeles), started out clearly stating that dispensing medical marijuana was legal under state law. As such, it garnered the support of state and national reform groups. But it was gutted in committee, and that language was removed, leaving only language allowing localities the option of regulating collectives. That bill now heads to the Senate.

To add insult to injury, an even worse bill passed the Senate and is headed for the Assembly. Senate Bill 847, introduced by Sen. Lou Correa (D-Anaheim), would impose statewide zoning restrictions on dispensaries. Under the bill, dispensaries would have to be at least 600 feet from a residential area unless the locality chooses to have a more permissive zoning law.

On the non-medical front, what would have been groundbreaking legislation giving judges and prosecutors the option of trying cultivation offenses as misdemeanors instead of felonies is down, but not quite out. Assembly Bill 1017, introduced by Assemblyman Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco), was defeated last week on a vote of 24-36, but won a motion to reconsider, meaning the Assembly can revisit the bill in January.

"The state legislature has once again demonstrated its incompetence when it comes to dealing with prison crowding," commented California NORML Director Dale Gieringer. "With California under court order to reduce its prison population, it is irresponsible to maintain present penalties for nonviolent drug offenses. It makes no sense to keep marijuana growing a felony, when assault, battery, and petty theft are all misdemeanors. Legislators have once again caved in to to the state's law enforcement establishment, which has a  vested professional interest in maximizing drug crime."

And last but not least, a hemp bill, Senate Bill 676, also authored by Sen. Leno, passed the Senate and awaits action in the Assembly. That bill authorizes hemp to be grown only in a handful of Central Valley counties and Imperial County on the Mexican border, where distance and prevailing winds should keep its pollen away from Northern California's lucrative marijuana crops.

Some small glimmers of light, but all in all, a pretty disappointing year so far for marijuana reform in Sacramento.

Sacramento, CA
United States

Why Do Cops Hate Hemp?

http://stopthedrugwar.org/files/legalizehemp.png

The effort to legalize hemp farming in California is heating up again, and unfortunately, law enforcement interests are still doing everything in their power to stand in the way:

Last week the California Narcotics Officers' and Police Chiefs Associations announced that they oppose Senator Mark Leno's hemp farming bill, SB 676. Their opposition letters were sent less than 24 hours before the hearing in Agriculture Committee and featured incorrect and outdated arguments against the bill. (Vote Hemp)

There's nothing too surprising about that, but it continues to amaze me that opposing hemp – which is used to make just about anything besides drugs – would actually be considered a political priority for the law enforcement lobby. Who in their right mind would even bothering making a scene over something like this?

The answer is John Lovell, the Sacramento lobbyist for both law enforcement groups. Fortunately Vote Hemp attended the hearing in force, thanks to your support, and we were ready to counter his tired old claims that hemp farming was somehow going to make life difficult for law enforcement. In fact, Lovell was on the defensive and ended up being removed from the witness table by the Sergeant at Arms during the hearing due to repeatedly interrupting other witnesses!

Wow, that sounds like an instant classic. Let's please get this up on YouTube if anyone has it, because this guy has been a nuisance for quite some time and hasn't received the recognition he deserves for his deranged drug war demagoguery.

The bottom line is that hemp is food, not drugs. If you have a problem with hemp, you're anti-food, and the very notion of being anti-food is so staggeringly absurd, it could only emerge from the perverted fantasies of paranoid, overzealous drug warriors.

They are actually claiming that allowing hemp farming would complicate the ever-so-effective methods by which they've been stopping people from growing pot across California. And this is all based on the theory that people will hide marijuana plants in their hemp fields, which would almost makes sense except that cross pollination would turn their sour diesel into a granola bush.

Leaving aside all the other reasons that marijuana prohibition promotes widespread waste, suffering, and idiocy, the simple fact that a healthy food plant is banned because it looks like pot is so intellectually and economically devastating that undoing this one insane injustice would by itself constitute sufficient grounds for making marijuana legal.

Illinois House Kills Hemp Bill

A bill that would have allowed Illinois farmers to get permits to grow hemp was stopped dead in a House vote last Thursday. The bill, House Bill 1383, was defeated 28-83.

Industrial hemp in France produces oils and fiber. (Image via Wikimedia.org)
The bill was sponsored by Rep. Ken Dunkin (D-Chicago), who emphasized hemp's environmental advantages and broad range of potential uses. "This is part of the new green movement across the nation," Dunkin said. "This will put Illinois ahead of most states."

The measure also had the support of the Illinois Farm Bureau. "There's a potential it [industrial hemp] could be a viable specialty crop," said bureau director of state legislation Kevin Semlow. "It was grown in the state up until the '40s."

Although marijuana and hemp were criminalized federally in the 1930s, farmers were encouraged to grow hemp by the federal government during World War II, when other sources of fiber were in short supply. But after the "Hemp for Victory" interregnum, hemp prohibition returned.

While hemp and hemp products may now be imported into the US, it remains illegal for farmers to grow the low-THC cannabis cultivar. Illinois imports $30 million worth of hemp a year, Dunkin said.

Opponents cited the federal government's classification of hemp as a controlled substance. A state law allowing for hemp production would put the state in conflict with the federal law, they argued.

"I would suggest a resolution asking the federal government to move it from Schedule One to Schedule Two so we could do more things, make the kind of distinctions between the plants (hemp and cannabis)," said Rep. Mike Fortner (R-West Chicago).

Downstate Republicans cited law enforcement opposition to the measure. "I had a call from [Sangamon County] Sheriff Williamson, and he asked me not to support it," said Rep. Rich Brauer (R-Petersburg).

Sangamon County Chief Deputy Jack Campbell told The State Register-Journal that legalized hemp production would make it harder to find illicit marijuana. "Like with medical marijuana, there will probably be abuse with it, and it would probably be a nightmare to control," Campbell said.

Despite the repeated insistence by US law enforcement spokespersons that hemp production would provide cover for illicit marijuana production (and their implicit acknowledgement that they are unable to tell the difference), that has not proven to be the case in Canada and Western Europe, which have legalized hemp production without any problems of that nature.

According to the industry group Vote Hemp, nine states have passed legislation removing barriers to hemp cultivation and eight more have passed resolutions supporting legalized hemp production.

Springfield, IL
United States

Hemp House Going Up at North Carolina's Lake Junaluska

Location: 
NC
United States
If you’re looking for a strong, green, energy-efficient building material that’s resistant to pretty much everything, hemp might be your best choice. This is the concept being pitched by Greg Flavall and David Madera, owners of a business called Hemp Technologies. They’re some of the first to build with the material in the United States, where industrial hemp hasn’t seen the rise in popularity it enjoys in other countries, thanks to a federal ban on U.S. production.
Publication/Source: 
Smoky Mountain News (NC)
URL: 
http://www.smokymountainnews.com/news/item/3454-hemp-house-going-up-at-lake-junaluska

Ron Paul: Hemp for Victory

Ron Paul supports the legalization of industrial hemp, a non-psychoactive variety of cannabis that provides an eco-friendly source of fiber and protein. Paul is a perennial author of hemp legalization bills, the latest of which is being promoted in May during the second-annual Hemp History Week. In this interview Josh Harkinson partially spoke with Paul about the benefits of hemp.
Publication/Source: 
Mother Jones (CA)
URL: 
http://motherjones.com/mojo/2011/03/ron-paul-hemp-victory

Leading Hemp Advocacy Groups Applaud Introduction of California Hemp Farming Bill SB 676 (Press Release)

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: February 28, 2011

CONTACT: Adam Eidinger at 202-744-2671 or adam@mintwood.com

California Businesses and Farmers Await Passage of New Bill to Allow Commercial Farming of Industrial Hemp

SACRAMENTO, Calif., Feb. 28, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The leading hemp advocacy organizations Vote Hemp and the Hemp Industries Association are applauding the introduction two weeks ago of SB 676 in support of hemp farming in the state of California. The bill clarifies that industrial hemp is separate and distinct from forms of Cannabis used to produce marijuana and if passed will allow commercial farming of industrial hemp, which occurred in the state up until shortly after World War II. Industrial hemp is the non-psychoactive, low-THC, oilseed and fiber varieties of the Cannabis sativa plant. Hemp has absolutely no value as a recreational drug.

SB 676 was introduced on Friday, February 18th by state Senator Mark Leno. Senator Leno believes that hemp farming will help revitalize California's economy, "The time is long over due for California farmers to be allowed to grow this sustainable and profitable crop once again. The passage of SB 676 will create new jobs and economic opportunities for many farmers and manufacturers throughout the state."

A variety of products made from industrial hemp, including healthy food and natural body care products as well as eco-friendly clothing, are made in California. "There are over 50 member businesses of the Hemp Industries Association

(HIA) that make or sell hemp products in the state of California alone that could benefit from an in-state source of hemp seed, fiber and oil," says Eric Steenstra, Executive Director of the HIA. "Because of an outdated federal policy these businesses are forced to import millions of dollars of industrial hemp from Canada, China and Europe."

"Dr. Bronner's currently purchases twenty tons of hemp oil each year from Canada. We look forward to the day that we can meet our supply needs from hemp produced right here in our home state," says David Bronner, President of Dr. Bronner's Magic Soaps of Escondido.  

To date, 17 states have passed pro-hemp laws or resolutions, including the California Assembly in 1999, when it passed a resolution declaring that "the Legislature should consider action to revise the legal status of industrial hemp to allow for its growth in California as an agricultural and industrial crop."

SB 676 would only allow farmers to produce and enter into the marketplace the parts of the industrial hemp plant already legal to import under state and federal law: its seed, oil, fiber and woody core. "SB 676 would not conflict with federal law or interfere with the enforcement of marijuana laws," explains Patrick Goggin, California Legal Counsel for Vote Hemp.  

The Hemp Industries Association (HIA) represents the interests of the hemp industry and encourages the research and development of new hemp products. Vote Hemp is a national, single-issue, non-profit organization dedicated to the acceptance of and a free market for low-THC industrial hemp and to changes in current law to allow U.S. farmers to once again grow this agricultural crop.  More information about hemp legislation and the crop's many uses may be found at www.VoteHemp.com and www.TheHIA.org.

Location: 
CA
United States

Call for Release of Moroccan Marijuana, Human Rights Activist

Last week, Moroccan human rights activist, denouncer of corruption, and marijuana legalization advocate Chakib El-Khayari began his third year in prison for "offending the Moroccan state." El-Khayari, president of the Human Rights Association of the Rif region in Morocco, has been jailed since February 17, 2009, and now, European drug reform activists and international human rights groups are calling for his release.

Chaikh El-Khayari (encod.org)
El-Khayari, who is also known for defending the rights of the Amazigh (Berber) people and African migrants passing through en route to Europe, aroused the ire of the Moroccan state for declaring to the press that the Moroccan military and police are collaborating in the trafficking of hashish to Europe. In 2008, he also took the path-breaking step of initiating a national debate on the legalization of industrial hemp and medical marijuana.

El-Khayari was arrested on February 17, 2009, and has been jailed ever since. He was convicted of "offending the Moroccan state" for his statements about the involvement of high-ranking officials in the police, the army, and the government in the hash trade. He was also convicted of violating Morocco's foreign exchange laws for depositing in a bank in Madrid a check from a Spanish newspaper for an article he had written.

In an open letter to Mohamed VI, the King of Morocco, the European Coalition for Just and Effective Drug Policies (ENCOD) is calling for El Khayari's immediate release. It is also calling on activists to print out and sign the letter, sending copies to the king and to the Moroccan embassy in their countries.

"Nothing justifies the heavy sanction that has been applied to Chakib El-Khayari," the letter says. "It is a manifest act of repression that is contrary to the international instruments to protect human rights that were ratified by Morocco and in particular, the international agreement on civil and political rights between Morocco and the European Union. We denounce firmly the detention of Chakib El-Khayari and urge his inmediate and unconditional release."

It's not just drug reformers. Five months ago, Amnesty International called for El-Khayari's release, saying it considers him a prisoner of conscience, "solely detained for his anti-corruption statements and his human rights activities."

The call for El-Khayari's release comes as the Moroccan government teeters under the wave of popular unrest that is sweeping North Africa and the Middle East. Five people were killed during widespread protests seeking constitutional reform Sunday.

Morocco

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