Pubdate: Thu, 10 Aug 2006
Source: Portland Mercury (OR)
Copyright: 2006 The Portland Mercury
Author: Amy Jenniges
Cited: Citizens for a Safer Portland
Cited: Marijuana Policy Project
Bookmark: (Marijuana)

Pot Bust


An initiative that would have made marijuana offenses the lowest law 
enforcement priority in Portland failed to make the ballot this week, 
after a Multnomah County analysis of the initiative's signatures 
showed that the petition's backers, Citizens for a Safer Portland, 
didn't submit 26,691 valid signatures.

The initiative--largely funded by the Washington, DC-based Marijuana 
Policy Project, which gave the campaign over $120,000 to 
date--collected a little over 40,000 signatures. But the campaign 
scrubbed duplicates, the city tossed another 5,000 due to "circulator 
error"--a decision the campaign is not happy about--and only 62 
percent of the remaining 27,000 signatures were valid, according to 
Multnomah County Elections' calculations. The campaign spent over 
$94,000 on petition circulators, according to the July 24 campaign 
finance filings.

Local pot activist Chris Iverson filed the petition without much 
fanfare back on February 7. Given Portland's already strong support 
for the state's medical marijuana measures, Iverson's strategy was to 
keep quiet and avoid drawing any opposition that might jeopardize the 
built-in advantage. In hindsight, that strategy may have backfired.

Iverson disagrees. "The fact that we only had four months hurt us. 
The fact that we didn't have a whole lot of money hurt us," Iverson 
says. "I still think not talking to the media and laying low was a 
smart decision."

In Seattle, where a similar measure made the ballot and passed in 
2003, there was a 63 percent reduction in arrests, prosecutions, and 
sentences for marijuana offenses. Portland's measure could have had a 
similar effect by making "adult marijuana-related offenses the lowest 
law-enforcement priority in the City of Portland," and backing up the 
measure with a citizens' oversight committee to ensure the directive 
was being followed by cops and the district attorney.

Supporters, like Iverson, had hoped that the city measure would have 
paved the way for statewide marijuana reforms--ambitious ideas like 
regulating and taxing the drug. "It seems that [the Marijuana Policy 
Project] and the activists here in Oregon want to continue down this 
low-priority initiative road," Iverson says. "It's very likely we 
will obtain another grant and do this next year or in '08. I am not 
stopping until this is legal, and the war on marijuana is over."  
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