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Oregon Petitioners Offer Double the Needed Signatures to Put Marijuana Recriminalization Law on 1998 Ballot


September-October 1997

Opponents of an Oregon law (H.B. 3643) that would recriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana have turned in almost twice as many signatures needed to qualify for voter consideration of the law in the 1998 general election (Ashbel S. Green, "Opponents of HB 3643 turn in almost twice the number of signatures needed to force a 1998 ballot on the new marijuana penalty," Oregonian (Portland), October 4, 1997, p. 1; Ashbel S. Green, "Marijuana campaign would halt Oregon bill," Oregonian (Portland), September 25, 1997).

If the signatures are found valid by the Oregon Secretary of State, H.B. 3643 will be suspended until the 1998 general election. H.B. 3643 increases the penalty for possessing less than one ounce of marijuana from a non-criminal "violation" to a class C misdemeanor punishable by a maximum of 30 days in jail, a $1,000 fine, and loss of the violator's driver's license (See "Oregon Recriminalizes Possession of Small Amounts of Marijuana," NewsBriefs, August 1997).

Oregonians for Sensible Law Enforcement, the organization that led the signature gathering effort, said that they turned in 95,032 signatures, almost twice the 48,841 valid signatures needed to qualify, to the state Elections Division. Scott Tighe, the state elections operations manager, said, "The odds of that thing making the ballot are quite favorable." If the measure makes the ballot, it would mark the first time that Oregonians would vote on the marijuana issue since 1986, when a marijuana decriminalization effort failed by a 3-1 ratio.

Rep. Floyd Prozanski (D-Eugene) said that Oregon's limited law enforcement resources should be used to pursue violent criminals. "There's a lot of jargon about being tough on crime. But you also have to be smart. The reality is we don't have unlimited resources," said Prozanski.

Oregonians for Sensible Law Enforcement - Todd Olsen, 2915 SE Hawthorne Blvd., Portland, OR 97214, Work Tel: (503) 231-9970, Home Tel: (503) 239-0575.

State Rep. Floyd Prozanski - Oregon State Capitol, Salem OR 97310, Tel: (503) 986-1440.