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Feature: Signature Gathering for 2010 Oregon Cannabis Tax Act Initiative Suspended, Poor Poll Results Cited

Submitted by Phillip Smith on (Issue #558)

An initiative that would have provided for the nation's first legal, regulated sale of marijuana for personal use is on hold. The organizers of the Oregon Cannabis Tax Act (OCTA) announced last weekend that they were suspending signature gathering for the proposed 2010 initiative after it did poorly in initial polling.

OCTA campaign logo
But while the OCTA is down, it may not be out. Organizers are suggesting they may be back with a rewrite in time to still make the 2010 ballot.

"We have suspended the OCTA campaign after completing our polling," Oregon NORML head Madeline Martinez confirmed to the Chronicle. "Although the numbers were not too bad, not far from a win."

Martinez and Oregon NORML had joined forces with D. Paul Stanford's The Hemp and Cannabis Foundation (THC Foundation) and its political action committee, the Committee for the Restoration and Regulation of Hemp (CRRH) to promote the initiative. Stanford was traveling and unavailable for comment this week.

The OCTA would have been groundbreaking. It provides for the state liquor commission (to be renamed the Oregon Cannabis and Liquor Control Commission) to license the cultivation of marijuana for sale in state liquor stores and its purchase by adults. It authorizes hemp growing, which would be outside the purview of the commission. It allows for the non-commercial personal growing of marijuana. It provides for the sale at cost to pharmacies and medical research facilities of marijuana for medicinal purposes.

But OCTA as written wasn't selling itself to potential voters, said Dr. Rick Bayer, chief petitioner for the 1998 OMMA. The initial polling results proved as much, he said. Neither the ballot title nor the summary of the initiative won majorities.

The ballot title and summary, written by the state attorney general, are as follows:

Ballot Title: Permits State-Licensed Cultivation of Marijuana, Sale of Marijuana to Adults Through State Liquor Stores

Results Of "Yes" Vote: "Yes" vote permits state-licensed cultivation of marijuana and sale to adults through state liquor stores; ninety percent of net proceeds to state general fund.

Results Of "No" Vote: "No" vote retains all existing prohibitions against the cultivation, manufacture, possession, and delivery of marijuana; retains current statues that permit regulated use of marijuana.

Summary: Current law prohibits cultivation, manufacture, possession, and delivery of marijuana, but permits regulated medical use of marijuana. Proposed measure replaces state, local marijuana laws exept driving under the influence laws. Directs renamed Oregon Cannabis and Liquor Control Commission to license marijuana cultivation by qualified persons and to purchase entire crop. Commission sells marijuana at cost to pharmacies and medical research facilities for medical purposes, and to qualified adults for profit through state liquor stores. Ninety percent of net proceeds goes to state general fund; smaller percentages for education, drug abuse treatment, promotion of hemp products. Bans sales to, and possession by, minors. Bans public consumption except where signs permit and minors barred. Commission to regulate illicit use, set price, other duties. Provides penalties. Other provisions.

"The OCTA ballot title, saying nothing about hemp, was politically unattractive," said Bayer, who had access to detailed polling results. "The ballot title alone polled 30%. Reading the summary, a far better -- but longer -- description of the OCTA, raised supporters to 39%. Telling people about the hemp part and re-polling the ballot title raised supporters to 42%."

That's not good enough, said Bayer. "Tax & Regulate polling at 42% if it had a good ballot title is the best I can make it. Even though 42% is good compared to the national average for tax & regulate, it won't win. These stats had a 95% confidence level or +/- 5%, so the results seem pretty reliable. Even to the most statistically challenged, it was clear that OCTA was not going to win."

But that doesn't mean OCTA is going away, said Martinez. "We know we can easily improve the language and poll very well during this economic crisis and refile in plenty of time for 2010," she reported. "We are very busy now rewriting, re-polling and refiling."

Of course, OCTA isn't the only game in town when it comes to Oregon and marijuana. Recent legislative sessions have featured battles over efforts to gut the OMMA, with more set to come next year. And at least one other group is looking at a medical marijuana initiative for 2010.

"I think it is a reasonable decision after they got polling results that showed it would be a difficult political environment to pass in 2010," said Anthony Johnson, political director for Voter Power, the group that directed the successful OMMA initiative campaign a decade ago and which is now gathering signatures to put a dispensary initiative, Initiative 28, on the 2010 ballot. "This may possibly free up resources and energy to help us get I-28 on the ballot for 2010."

Voter Power is currently trying to get the money together to do similar polling on its initiative, especially in the face of criticism that it could somehow threaten the OMMA. But that hasn't happened yet.

Both OCTA and Voter Power's dispensary initiative have their supporters and detractors in the state's fractious marijuana movement. In addition to tensions between medical marijuana activists and patients and full-out legalizers, the medical marijuana community itself is rife with factionalism and sniping. But it isn't just the marijuana community or the medical marijuana community that needs to be sold on either OCTA or the dispensary initiative -- it's the Oregon electorate.

Permission to Reprint: This content is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license. Content of a purely educational nature in Drug War Chronicle appear courtesy of DRCNet Foundation, unless otherwise noted.


Anonymous (not verified)

I have a hard time believing that your "prohibitionist" opposition spending calculations include the spending of pharmaceutical companies to keep a cheap drug that anyone anywhere can produce off the market.

Fri, 10/31/2008 - 1:14pm Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

If you have expenditure figures that differ from what I've posted, please enlighten us. I don't see any representative from the large drug policy reform groups contradicting these figures. MPP grossly outspent John Walters' ONDCP and all his surrogate groups in Nevada and still lost.

Fri, 10/31/2008 - 9:23pm Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

",,,and still got only 44% of the electorate" You make no effort to recognize the 44%. I'm 50 and smoke cannabis. This group's reform message is clear. It still works in Vegas and outside of Vegas. It's time to change your ignorance towards the 44 percent in my view. I wonder when people like you will see that change is needed. If for no other reason, it will drastically reduce the violence associated with keeping things as they are, WAKE UP!

Fri, 10/31/2008 - 8:26pm Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

"This group's reform message is clear. It still works in Vegas and outside of Vegas."

If the message was clear back then, we would be talking about 50% + 1 of the Nevada vote, not what 44% represents.

Fri, 10/31/2008 - 9:36pm Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

I couldnt have said it better. Well put.

Fri, 10/31/2008 - 8:30pm Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

I am not surprised it failed. What idiot wants to give more tax money to a state already bloated with too much of our money and then throw in regulation of the growth of the plants too? STUPID! There aren't regulations to grow tomatoes and there shouldn't be for marijuana either. I will NEVER sign any petition to regulate and tax something which I have a GOD given right to grow and use.

Fri, 10/31/2008 - 9:19pm Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

It took a constitutional ammendment to ban the sale and production of alcohol but the people's right to produce and possess alcohol for personal use was never over ridden by the amendment. It is the same today for marijuana prohibition. The right to posses and produce marijuana for personal use only is lawful in all fifty states. Here are Oregon's laws on the subject.

475.125 Registration requirements. (3) The following persons need not register and may lawfully possess controlled substances under ORS 475.005 to 475.285 and 475.840 to 475.980: (c) An ultimate user

22) “Ultimate user” means a person who lawfully possesses a controlled substance for the use of the person

The problem lies with the failure of the people to distinguish between their lawful right to grow and possess for personal use only and the feds craftiness for using commercial laws to prosecute them.

The states have delegated to the federal government the power to regulate commerce among the states. So as long as the feds are seen as regulating commerce by the courts, ie. buying and selling, it will be upheld as constitutional.

The solution is for people to open the law books and read them with comprehension. Therein they will find that the misapplication of the commercial laws upon them by the fed and state agencies violate the constitutional guarantee to due process of the law. Then learn how to stand in the law against the administrative tyranny that is being foisted upon them.

Sat, 11/01/2008 - 12:02am Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

I care deeply about the issue of drug prohibition. It angers me that you would delete my posts.

Mon, 11/03/2008 - 2:55pm Permalink
borden (not verified)


Last weekend a on our web server failed and had to be replaced. As a result, we appear to have lost some comments, the ones posted subsequent to Friday's night's automatic backup, from which our site restoral was run. I am guessing that the comment referred to here was one of them.

We may be able to recover these comments, but I don't know yet if that will be possible. Please accept my apology for the lost effort on your part. I hope that those of you affected will repost your earlier words here, and that it was not too large an amount of work that you lost from this.

David Borden, Executive Director the Drug Reform Coordination Network
Washington, DC

Mon, 11/03/2008 - 4:25pm Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

I downloaded the OCTA signature gathering forms from the website when it first started, and spotted a problem with the way the forms were oriented on the page. I sent email with a correction, but never heard anything back on it. This created the impression the OCTA website was basically created and abandoned.
This despite the fact it included a mailto: webmaster link. If you guys can't be bothered to correct your website, why should I bother with OCTA?

Wed, 11/05/2008 - 8:47pm Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

Sure, part of it is money, That is what fuels the AARP and the NRA. But equally powerful is voices and numbers. If every pot smoker were to donate to at least one pot-legalization organization, and if every pot smoker were to write once a month to their representatives, and to the new president, if we could become as powerful as the NRA, we would have pot legalized and regulated for adults nationwide by 2010. We are up against the powerful pharmaceutical companies and the close minded Office of National Drug Control Policy. I think the general public is more flexible informing opinions on this than are these giants; they have a vested interest in keeping pot illegal. Pharmaceutical companies have much to fear from pot being legalized. But the common person is much more ammenable to a change in opinion. My 35 years of smoking pot has even gotten my mother to relax her views on marijuana, as she has seen me become a successful adult in spite off the misperceptions about pot smokers.

If you are not donating and rattling the cages of lawmakers, you have no right to complain about pot being illegal, or even to smoke pot!

Thu, 11/06/2008 - 10:03am Permalink
Erinn (not verified)

So what would this mean for personal in home cultivation. Not for sale but for personal use. Will it not be allowed? Will all those people be required to be licensed Please contact me through Facebook erinn shea.

Tue, 05/04/2010 - 2:03pm Permalink

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