High Hopes

Oregon pot-legalization advocates push to follow California's lead.

After decades of dashed hopes, leaders of the movement to legalize marijuana believe their goal is poised to become a reality this year.

They got renewed momentum last week when organizers of an initiative to legalize cannabis in California submitted enough signatures to put the issue on that state's ballot this November. And Oregon pot advocates are confident the Beaver State will not be far behind.

As candidates for governor, the Legislature, City Hall and Multnomah County campaign in Oregon's May primary with their proposed solutions to budget problems, pot-legalization supporters are working to get an initiative similar to California's on the November ballot here. Legislation backers are pitching the proposal's economic benefits. Advocates say legalizing pot and taxing it could generate at least $100 million a year and save as much as $75 million annually on law enforcement.

The Oregon Cannabis Taxation Act, like California's proposal, would let anyone 21 and older possess up to an ounce of marijuana and set up a committee to regulate distribution and taxation.

The Oregon proposal, which also would prohibit the regulation of hemp, has until July 2 to collect 82,679 valid signatures from registered voters to make the November ballot.

The state Supreme Court last week dismissed a challenge to the initiative language, providing another momentum jolt for the proposal.

The court decision means signature gathering can begin for what would be Measure 73. Initiative author and chief petitioner Paul Stanford is confident Oregonians will put cannabis legalization on the ballot.

"I think we have a perfect storm of various factors," Stanford says.

He cites the economic benefits of taxing marijuana, and says hemp could be the next big player in sustainability because it is three times more productive than other sources of biodiesel fuel such as soybeans and sunflower seeds.

"The cannabis and hemp industries will create thousands upon thousands of jobs," Stanford says. "It will bring an economic boom to Oregon."

Stanford also points to recent polls showing greater social acceptance of marijuana than in 1986 when he got the Oregon Marijuana Initiative on the ballot. That measure got only a 26 percent "yes" vote.

Unlike the 1986 proposal, which would have legalized cannabis for anyone over 18 and lacked a plan for distribution, the 2010 initiative would create an Oregon Cannabis Control Commission that would regulate distribution.

"This is a radically different bill," says Stanford, adding that his group aims to raise $350,000 for the signature-gathering effort. If Measure 73 makes the ballot, Stanford says it's got a "50-50 chance of voter approval."

The signature-gathering firm will be Democracy Resources, a ballot measure organization with a long track record.

Kyndall Mason, Democracy Resources' director of field operations, believes this effort will reach its goal of 125,000 signatures by mid-June. This group is collecting more than the number of signatures needed to guarantee enough are valid.

"The interest has grown quite rapidly in last few months," Mason says. "The volunteer base for this initiative is as strong if not stronger than many [initiatives']."

Trail Mix

Politics in small bites.

  • Will Rasmussen, a Democratic hopeful in House District 37, will have lived in his district for all of eight months at the time of the May 18 primary. And if Rasmussen, 30, makes it to the November general election by beating his two opponents in the primary, he’ll have lived in his district, covering Tualatin and West Linn, for only two months more than the state-required minimum of one year. “I haven’t counted days, but I suppose that’s accurate,” says Rasmussen, who has the backing of House Speaker Dave Hunt (D-Gladstone). Public records show Rasmussen closed on his new condo in West Linn on March 4, after living in a West Linn apartment for six months.
  • Democratic state treasurer candidates Ted Wheeler and Rick Metsger were scheduled for their first joint appearance March 29 at the Washington County Public Affairs Forum. While a lunchtime audience of about 65 waited, Metsger stood on the stage alone. Metsger, a state senator from Welches, finally began his remarks about 10 minutes late. Was Wheeler, appointed treasurer March 8 by Gov. Ted Kulongoski, high-hatting the event? No. Turns out the problem was a scheduling glitch, for which Wheeler apologized to organizers profusely, calling it a “miscommunication.” Metsger also missed a March 18 Clackamas County candidates forum due to a prior commitment.
  • Candidates Gone Wild is always—in the words of Joe Biden—“a big fucking deal.” And this year’s event, on April 26 at the Aladdin, rivals Obamacare for its audacity. Hosted by Storm Large, the hootenanny staged by WW Live Wire! and the Bus Project will feature the three Metro president candidates. And there’s more—the huge field of candidates for a Multnomah County commission seat will also take the stage to share intimate political secrets. Buy your tickets ($5 apiece) now for the political event of the season by coming to WW’s world headquarters at 2220 NW Quimby St., or the box office of the Aladdin.

The Money Shot

Metro by the numbers.

The Metro Council president's race features former 1000 Friends of Oregon Executive Director Bob Stacey, a tenacious environmental advocate; ex-Hillsboro Mayor Tom Hughes, who says he's all about jobs; and two-term Metro Councilor Rex Burkholder, an amalgam of the other two.

All three are strong candidates. But Metro often operates in obscurity despite big responsibilities such as regional transportation planning, solid-waste disposal, land-use management, parks and the Oregon Convention Center. Metro also plays a big role in the Columbia River Crossing bridge process, runs the Oregon Zoo, decides whose land gets inside the Urban Growth Boundary and serves as a conduit for federal transportation dollars. And while the public may not care, at least a few donors realize that ensuring access to the council president is a good investment.

Here's how the candidates' fundraising shapes up so far:

SOURCE: ORESTAR; donations from past 365 days.