The Oregonian, Thursday, October 16, 1997, p. F8

Measure to repeal pot law qualifies for 1998 ballot

By Ashbel S. Green
of The Oregonian staff

A measure to repeal a law criminalizing possession of small quantities of marijuana is on Oregon's 1998 ballot.

State elections officials late Tuesday verified that the referendum to repeal House Bill 3643 gathered 66,947 valid signatures, more than the required 48,841. The referendum will appear on the Nov. 3, 1998, general-election ballot as Measure 57, unless otherwise ordered by the Legislature.

Referendum supporters turned in 90,103 signatures Oct. 3, not the 95,032 that elections officials had reported.

HB3643, which the 1997 Legislature approved and Gov. John Kitzhaber signed, made possession of less than 1 ounce of marijuana a misdemeanor punishable by a maximum $1,000 fine and 30 days in jail, although diversion would be an option for first-time offenders.

The referendum's qualification for the ballot suspends the law until the election.

Since 1973, possession of less than 1 ounce of marijuana has been a violation, much like a traffic ticket. It is punishable by a maximum $1,000 fine but not arrest or jail time.

Supporters of the recriminalization of marijuana, mostly law enforcement officials, said they want to send a stronger message to children about the dangers of drugs. The referendum campaign, part of a national movement to liberalize drug laws for medicinal purposes, says that marijuana penalties are stiff enough and that public money should be spent elsewhere.


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