IMAGE: ERIKA-LEIGH GOODWIN
Organizers say they have gathered 15,000 signatures from registered city voters—more than half of the 26,000 needed by July 7 to place the question on the November ballot.
The measure found a ready audience among hundreds of marijuana users and supporters groggily gathered in Pioneer Courthouse Square at noon Saturday. Petitions for the Citizens for a SAFER Portland initiative circulated throughout the ganja-loving gathering organized by the Oregon chapter of the National Organization for the Reformation of Marijuana Laws, or NORML.
The proposed measure to soften enforcement of marijuana laws would not apply to offenses "relating to minors [or] driving under the influence of marijuana, or offenses occurring within 1,000 feet of schools," according to the petition's language.
"We've got over 40 people gathering signatures," says City Council candidate Chris Iverson, who also serves as campaign manager for Citizens for a SAFER Portland. "I feel confident we're going to make the ballot."
The three-hour event of speeches and a one-mile march around downtown Portland attracted a lot of stereotypical stoners, some wearing paper bags with photos attached of famous pot growers such as George Washington and users such as Jennifer Aniston.
And many wore dark sunglasses despite overcast skies.
But the event also focused on serious issues faced by medical marijuana patients in places other than Oregon, which is one of 11 states where pot can be legally smoked for medical purposes.
Cynthia and her husband, Philip, who would not divulge their last names, were visiting from Florida (a state with a long history of trying to legalize medical marijuana use) and attended the march and rally in the square with their 9-year-old son, Cullen.
Philip uses marijuana to relieve the pain he suffers from a fused vertebra. Cullen knows his fortysomething father uses pot to treat his symptoms. But Philip stressed that he does not condone the use of marijuana by a child.
"We don't give him alcohol or cigarettes, either," said Philip. "He knows that there are disparities in the law."
Also attending were candidates in the May 16 primary who support downgraded doobage, such as Iverson and Multnomah County sheriff challenger Don DuPay.
Meanwhile, gubernatorial hopeful Joe Keating took full advantage of his Green Party status (that's green as in environmental). Keating is running on a pro-herb platform, stating the importance of taxing marijuana to generate money for the state and making the process of obtaining medical marijuana easier for the sick.
For Keating, this message comes from the heart. His partner, Carol Leona, is a breast cancer patient and a medical marijuana user.
Keating acts as her caretaker and admits to smoking recreationally himself. Asked whether he was feeling mellow last Saturday, Keating answered, "No, I'm not."