Maybe there were good vibes after all from the ninth annual Million Marijuana March that rolled out at high noon on May 3 through downtown Portland.
Less than 48 hours after an estimated 700 marchers demonstrated to protest pot prohibition and to support the use of medical marijuana, conservative activist Kevin Mannix announced he'd end a ballot initiative drive that would have replaced the Oregon Medical Marijuana Program with prescription THC pills. As first reported Monday on wweek.com, Mannix says there wasn't enough time or money to collect the 82,769 valid signatures needed to put his initiative on the November ballot.
Madeline Martinez, executive director of the Oregon National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, said Tuesday that she couldn't be more thrilled.
"I think it speaks volumes about where the public is on this issue," Martinez says. (Paul Stanford, head of the nonprofit THC Foundation clinics, says patients oppose THC pills because they're ineffective and overpriced.)
Martinez, a medical-marijuana user for chronic disk and joint pain, says her 1,200-member group aims to have medicinal pot taxed by the state and eventually sold in state-run liquor stores. The pro-pot demonstrators want to place an Oregon Cannabis Tax initiative on the 2010 state ballot that they say could add hundreds of millions of dollars annually to the general fund for health care.
"Relax it and tax it," the crowd chanted at Saturday's march—one of more than 200 pro-pot demonstrations held worldwide on the same day.
Among the marchers, who got a police escort for their 24-block route around Pioneer Courthouse Square, were punks, parents and grannies; hip-hoppers and hippies; people in wheelchairs and on crutches.
Portland Police Sgt. Robert Voepel said the only rabble-rousers during the 45-minute march were two people-pestering drunkards who were unconnected to the peaceful gatherers. No pot smokers were spotted.
"These guys are nothing compared to the anarchists," Voepel says.
: The initiative by Mannix, a candidate in the May 20 Republican primary for Oregon's 5th Congressional District, also would have provided stiffer penalties for repeat sex offenders and drunk drivers.
According to April 2008 data from the state, Oregon has about 16,000 medical marijuana users, and 2,865 licensed physicians who have signed medical marijuana applications.