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Thinking (And Speech) Outside The Box

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By John Sajo, Director, Voter Power

signature gathering marijuana reform initiative boatnikFriends and fellow activists

While we walk this path to freedom we face many obstacles. The initiative process is perhaps the clearest example of petitioning to change government policies – and it is under threat. Last spring Voter Power rented a booth at Boatnik, a free public festival in a Grants Pass, Oregon park. We told them we intended to register voters, collect initiative signatures and sell hemp products. Halfway through the first day some of the event organizers apparently became upset that we were trying to legalize marijuana by collecting signatures on I 24, a Constitutional Amendment to end marijuana prohibition. They weren’t troubled by booths selling marijuana paraphernalia or confederate flags but our petition to end marijuana arrests got them riled up. They threatened my colleague, Geri Kulp, with arrest if she wouldn’t stop collecting signatures. Considering that we had been completely honest with them, had a written contract, paid the fees and were merely exercising our first Amendment rights, she stood her ground and was arrested. The next day Billy Kyle Locasio, one of the world’s greatest petitioners, went to the park and shot this video.

The criminal case against Ms. Kulp has not concluded and our civil case against Boatnik organizers has not yet begun. But it will.

This kind of hassling of petitioners is common in America. I 24 narrowly missed qualifying for the ballot. Many analysts believe that had it qualified, Oregon would have been the third state to legalize and would have done so with a simple clear law, beyond the reach of federal intervention.

The initiative failed to qualify, not because of a lack of public support, but because of this kind of obstruction and worse. Shortly after this, Oregon Secretary of State Kate Brown fined chief petitioner Bob Wolfe

$65,000 for alleged hypertechnical violations of how petitioners were paid.

The cumulative effect of the many obstacles succeeded in denying Oregonians the right to vote on the simple idea of ending marijuana arrests and imprisonment.

Bob Wolfe has shifted from fighting for marijuana reform to fighting for election law reform. Several cases are ongoing.

My friend, Eddie Spaghetti, who helped produce the video is working on an initiative to reform the WA initiative process. I hope we can do the same in Oregon.

If we really had free speech and a fair playing field, we would have legalized marijuana long ago.

Please watch the video, stay tuned for more, and don’t forget to stand up for our most basic rights. Speech is not free if it is caged, regulated by rules without purpose and isolated from the public.

John Sajo
Director, Voter Power

I am proud to be playing a small part in standing up for democracy.

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