May 20th, 2010 | by Jacob Reingold News | Posted In: CLEAN UP, Politics, Cops and Courts

Pot Initiative Poised to Become Ballot Measure

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Potential reform of Oregon's marijuana laws will go forward today when petitioners present their signatures to put Initiative 28 on the state's November ballot.

Hundreds of Initiative 28 supporters spent more than a year collecting more than 110,000 signatures, which will be presented today to the Secretary of State's office. Oregon law requires 82,769 of these signatures to be valid in order for the initiative to qualify as a referendum.

Initiative 28 is one of two marijuana initiatives aiming to make the fall ballot. The other is Initiative 73 (PDF), which would fully legalize and tax pot.

Initiative 28 would birth something called the Oregon Regulated Medical Marijuana Supply System, which would tax dispensaries for the right to sell weed to patients who qualify. The new system would allow patients to legally buy marijuana for the first time from dispensaries in Oregon instead of having to reap it themselves.

John Sajo, director of the petition effort for Initiative 28, sounds optimistic about the prospective law's chances.

“I think we will pass this initiative, Sajo said in a phone interview, “And it will show that marijuana can be safely given to patients in a regulated way and that will shed light on whether we can in some time do the same for all adults.”

Advocates of the initiative argue that it would give patients who are eligible for medical marijuana —but cannot grow it themselves— easier access to the medicine. And they say the program would be financially self-sustaining or even profitable for the state, raising between $10 million and $40 million in its first year alone.

Sajo says I 28 would create a dispensary system akin to California's but without abuses.

“California is already making millions of dollars through taxes on dispensaries,” said Sajo, “One woman I know who runs the Berkeley Patients Group told me she was paying $70,000 a week in taxes on her dispensary.”

Surplus tax revenue? Not to mention easier access to pot? That might make Initiative 28 appealing to Oregon voters in November.

Meantime, Initiative 73 supporters say they're also on track to hit the state's July 2 deadline for signatures needed to make the upcoming ballot.
 
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