Newsbrief: Lane County Won't Be Sensible -- Group Ends Marijuana Amendment Effort 2/6/04

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Sensible Lane County (http://www.sensiblelanecounty.tk), the Eugene-based group planning an initiative that would have directed county law enforcement officials to stop arresting and prosecuting adult marijuana users, has given up the effort after finding little support in polls. The proposed amendment to the Lane County, Oregon, charter would have cut funds for enforcement of the state's law against marijuana possession. The state decriminalized possession in 1973 -- the first in the nation to do so -- but those caught with pot are ticketed, with fines ranging from $500 to $1,000.

Modeled on the Sensible Seattle coalition (http://www.sensibleseattle.org), which passed a similar initiative there last September, Sensible Lane hoped to replicate that effort in Lane County. But the group's preliminary polling showed that such a measure "is clearly not viable at this time," the group's co-director, Chris Wise, told the Portland Oregonian this week.

While Oregon led the way with decrim in 1973, voters have been happy with the status quo ever since. Efforts to legalize marijuana have failed six times since then, although, on the other hand, so did a 1998 effort to increase penalties for marijuana possession. That same year, Oregon voters did approve a medical marijuana initiative, under whose auspices some 7,500 patients are now getting their medicine.

Wise told the Oregonian that Sensible Lane will now work for the passage of new medical marijuana initiative, the Oregon Medical Marijuana Act 2 (http://www.voterpower.org/news/initiative.html). That initiative, which is scheduled to be filed this month, would refine and expand provisions of the 1998 initiative. Among other things, it would allow for the creation of a system of nonprofit medical marijuana dispensaries, increase the plant and poundage limits for patients, and lowers registration fees for patients.

"It's a pathway to further reform," Wise said. Sensible Lane, which is organized as a political action committee, will also look for other candidates and issues to support, he added.

Read our earlier reporting on Sensible Lane at http://stopthedrugwar.org/chronicle/308/sensiblelane.shtml online.

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