Over 66,000 valid signatures were counted by Oregon state election officials last week, easily surpassing the 48,000 necessary to get a referendum halting the recriminalization of marijuana on the ballot for 1998. The referendum is a response to House Bill 3643, passed earlier this year which would have reversed a 25 year-old state policy of non- criminal sanctions (fines) for the possession of personal use amounts (under one ounce) of marijuana.
The immediate effect of the successful petition drive will be to stall the implementation of the law until Oregonians have a chance to vote on the measure on November 3, 1998.
Efforts to collect signatures began almost as soon as the recrim bill was signed by Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber, but it wasn't until out-of-state money came into the campaign that the effort really took off. Some local officials and media personalities decried the infusion of capital from beyond Oregon's borders, but Sandee Burbank, director of Mothers Against Misuse and Abuse (MAMA) told The Week Online that nothing could have been more appropriate.
"Last year in California and Arizona there was Drug Czar Barry McCaffrey, three former presidents, Secretary of Health and Human Services Donna Shalala and others brazenly politicking against state-wide initiatives. But they all seemed aghast that individuals from outside of those states would be so bold as to send money to support the local activists involved there. Very hypocritical. I am very proud of the way people pulled together. We were faced with a law which would have cost the state a ton of money to enforce, and which would have been an enormous step backwards in terms of our reliance on the blunt instrument of the criminal justice system to deal with an issue which is better handled through education and rational regulation."