By Bradley Steinman, President of Lewis and Clark Law School SSDP
Unless a miracle occurs, the people of Oregon will be denied the chance to vote on the issue of marijuana legalization in 2012. Both of our state’s two legalization initiative campaigns gathered enough signatures to make the early turn-in deadline. The signature validity rates for Oregon’s two legalization petition initiatives are hot off the presses from the Oregon Secretary of State Elections Division. The results are dismal. Like many of my fellow Oregon marijuana activists, my heart has sunk. The reality of having two competing legalization initiatives is a bitter pill to swallow.
To appear on the November 2012 election ballot as a voter initiated statute, I-9, a.k.a. the Oregon Cannabis Tax Act (OCTA) needs a total of 87,213 signatures of registered Oregon voters by July 6. Seeking to legalize marijuana by voter initiated constitutional amendment is I-24, a.k.a. Citizens for Sensible Law Enforcement (CSLE). Voter initiated amendments require more signatures than initiated statutes to make the ballot in Oregon, so a total of 116,283 valid signatures is required to ensure CSLE gets on the ballot.
The proof is in the pudding. OCTA turned in 107,992 unverified signatures on 5/25/12, the early turn-in deadline. After inspection, OCTA was found to have 55,869 valid signatures, and achieved a signature validity rate of only 58.47% after discounting for invalid signatures. CSLE turned in whopping total of 122,337 unverified signatures to the Secretary of State on 5/25/12, and was found after inspection to have only 63,804 valid signatures! That is, a signature validity rate of only 54.1%.
As the July 6, 2012 deadline creeps closer, OCTA is 31,344 signatures short of making the ballot and CSLE is 52,480 signatures short. Neither is likely to come up with the amount of signatures necessary in such a short amount of time. It would take a miracle at this point in the game.
The signature validity rates, while disappointing, are not surprising. This of course, is in light of the lesson we should have gleaned from Colorado’s Amendment 64 campaign. The streamlined, ultra-strategic Colorado campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, spearheaded by Sensible Colorado and S.A.F.E.R. faced down and overcame extreme scrutiny from the Secretary of State Election officials earlier this year.
On January 4, 2012, the Colorado campaign turned in 163,362 signatures, almost double the 86,105 signatures required to make the ballot. On February 3, 2012, the Colorado Secretary of State declared the petition insufficient by 2,409 signatures. Within two weeks, the Colorado guys had collected 14,151 more signatures, of which 6,770 were found to be valid, enabling them to secure their spot on the ballot with 8 months to mobilize a campaign, fundraise, and train volunteers. Their signature validity rate was around 52.7%. So, we saw what type of battle we would face come July.
The sad part of it all is the blatant obviousness of what went wrong for Oregon, and how simply the issue could have been avoided. Recall the Oregon SSDP Cannabis Law Reform Conference, held on February 25, 2012 at Lewis & Clark Law School. Now, consider the background facts of what we knew Colorado was facing, and try to consider what motivated Oregon’s SSDP chapters to put together the unity conference. We were not being naive and idealistic, we were being strategic. Having multiple competing initiative campaigns would exponentially decrease the likelihood of getting something on the ballot, especially if we still had 3 initiatives, as we did at the time of the conference in February. Still, the blame is a shared one, on all Oregonian activists. We tried, we failed, and now we must learn from our mistakes and move forward.
It seems likely now that the people of Colorado and Washington will be the sole deciders of this crucial issue of national significance come election day. By failing to work together as a movement in Oregon, we failed to support our brothers and sisters around the country and around the world seeking a more sensible approach to cannabis laws. By loving individual glory more than we cared about those harmed by the exorbitantly costly, embarrassingly antiquated, and extremely deadly cannabis prohibition laws, we failed to help make the world a better place. If we had worked together, and united under the banner of one initiative in Oregon, we would be voting to legalize in November.
Unfathomable as it may be to some of Oregon’s old guard movement leadership, (I won’t name names), there isn’t one individual in Oregon that can legalize marijuana all by his or herself. It takes unity. It takes teamwork. It takes doing away with egoism and pride, and fierce tribalism based on entrenched economic interests or perceived political clout. It will take humility, compassion, unity of purpose and vision, a willingness to do your part and allowing others to do what they are good at. Above all, it will take love for our people, for the plant itself, and for freedom. Nobody can be the ‘Michael Jordan’ of legalization, because it takes everyone doing their part to succeed. Nobody is too big to do the dirty work, and no volunteer is too insignificant to be considered an integral part of a campaign’s success.
We are going to continue on as we have in Oregon, marching forward one step at a time. Good luck to Colorado and Washington in 2012. For those of us disappointed Oregonians, I say let’s prepare for 2014, 2016, or however long it takes. To the members of Oregon’s ‘Old Guard,’ with their “my way or the high-way” attitudes, I want you to know that you guys got us this far. I know that all of your years of hard work, sacrifice, courage, and selflessness will pay off, but only if we rise above past differences, clannishness, and egoism.
As has become obvious to Oregon activists the last few weeks, the constitutional amendment campaign and statutory campaign could work together harmoniously more effectively than they could in isolation. There is no need to compete when the winds of change are blowing at our backs.
Help end cannabis-hemp prohibition in Oregon in 2012. All we need to do is make the ballot. The ‘movement’ in Oregon needs to get out of the way, and be able to present the issue to the people. The spotlight should rightfully be on the state and on the people.
Will Oregon join Colorado and Washington in 2012 and help ignite the national conversation? It will take a miracle.