Recriminalization of Marijuana Dies in the Oregon Legislature --
Initiative Petition to Regulate Marijuana Sales Gathers Momentum

The recriminalization of marijuana in Oregon, House Bill 3466, died dramatically as the legislative session adjourned before dawn Saturday morning, June 10, 1995. Marijuana remains decriminalized in Oregon as an infraction, much like a traffic ticket.

Activists to tax and regulate marijuana organized to kill HB3466 by mobilizing thousands of phone calls and testimony in opposition to the bill. The sponsor of the bill to recriminalize marijuana, Jerry Grisham R-Beavercreek, stated that the bill was meant to counter our initiative petition to regulate the legal sales of marijuana in state liquor stores. The initiative petition is called The Oregon Cannabis Tax Act of 1997 and it is sponsored by the Oregon political action group, Pay for Schools by Regulating Cannabis (PSRC).

HB 3466 was one of two that the Democrats blocked from a Senate vote in a frantic final rush of legislation. If the bill had come to the floor it would have passed, since the Democrats were outnumbered 19 to 11 in the State Senate and all but one Republican was in favor of the recriminalization of marijuana. If the bill had passed it would have gone to the Governor's desk.

The legislative session adjourned at 1:50 AM, Saturday morning, June 10. The state legislature in Oregon is adjourned until January 1997, unless a special session is called. Oregon's legislature only meets for 6 months every two years in its regular biannual session.

The Republican controlled legislature was set to "enhance" marijuana penalties. Oregon was the first state to decriminalize marijuana in 1973 and the prohibitionists wanted to turn back the clock. Oregon's HB 3466 would have raised the penalties for possession of under an ounce of marijuana from it's current status as an infraction (a traffic ticket type offense) to a Class A misdemeanor, the most serious non-felony offense, with a fine of $100 to $1,000 per gram, and a maximum of $5,000. It would create a new crime of being under the influence of marijuana, with a fine of up to $5,000.

The bill was blocked on a technical basis by 10 State Senators who would not suspend the rules to allow it to come to the floor. One Republican voted against the recriminalization of marijuana, and one Democrat voted for it; one of each party was not present. One more vote would have allowed the rules to be suspended and the bill would have come to a vote in the State Senate. The recriminalization bill was poised to pass. Since the bill had just been read that day, it required a suspension of the rules to allow it to come to a vote on the same day, Friday, June 9th. Only one other bill out of dozens was similarly blocked in the State Senate. If the session had not adjourned in the early hours of the morning Saturday 6/10, the Democrats couldn't have blocked a vote on a technical basis Saturday or Monday. It was uncertain until 11 PM Friday night whether the legislature would adjourn before dawn.

Oregon House Bill 3466 passed the State House on Tuesday June 6, 1995 by a vote of 43 to 17. All the representatives who voted against the bill were Democrats, although some Democrats voted for the bill too. The Republicans took control of both the State House and Senate in the last election, though a Democrat, John Kitzhaber MD, won the Governor's office.

The Republicans in Oregon used an unprecedented strategy to gain control of the state congress in the November 1994 election. They mailed absentee ballots to all the registered Republican voters in the state with the ballots already marked, and their voters merely had to sign and mail it; this proved to be their margin of victory in dozens of close races. This gave them the clout to attempt this recriminalization and come so close to passing it, though the state's population is overwhelmingly opposed to increasing penalties for personal private possession of under an ounce of marijuana. Only one Republican in the in the legislature voted in opposition of HB 3466.

Special rules had been enacted in the final two weeks of the legislative session that allowed bills to come to committee hearing or a full chamber floor vote with one hour notice. HB 3466 would not have moved forward as far as it had without these special rules in effect. These rules had the effect of stifling debate and public input, since few people are able to keep tabs on state legislative activity from hour to hour and rush to the capitol on a moment's notice.

The bill was heard in the Senate Rules and Elections Committee on June 7th and they passed it with a recommendation that the State Senate vote in favor of the bill. On June 8th the bill was passed by the joint House and Senate Ways and Means Committee. They determined its fiscal / economic impact on the state and estimated that $829,500 was needed to defend indigent defendants under this bill.

We organized thousands of calls to the legislature over the final 3 days of the legislative session to defeat the bill. This office placed 200 of those calls personally and activated telephone networks statewide to mobilize opposition. We feel this made the difference in killing the bill before it made it to the Governor's desk.

We are circulating an initiative petition to regulate the sales of marijuana in state liquor stores, allow hemp production for paper, fabric, protein and oil, allow doctors to prescribe cannabis through pharmacies and allow adults to grow their own. Help us gather signatures for the Oregon Cannabis Tax Act of 1997. Our measure has won television polls, showing that we have the popular support necessary to regulate marijuana sales in our state package stores.

We have until July 5, 1996 to gather the 73,261 registered Oregon voter's signatures we need to make the ballot. (We have 30,000 as of September 9, 1995) Please help us make the ballot by circulating our petition in Oregon. When we turn in our signatures, the state will vote on the issue on November 5, 1996. If the ballot measure is approved in a statewide vote, cannabis will be legally regulated effective January 1, 1997.

Our initiative was written to comply with the international treaties that govern the way in which controlled substances can be sold. Since federal courts are directed to decide cases based upon both the Constitution and international treaty obligations, we wrote the Oregon Cannabis Tax Act to withstand the inevitable challenges that the Drug Enforcement Administration and their cronies will file in court to block this proposal from going into effect. These treaties, the Single Convention Treaty of 1961 and the UN Treaty on Psychotropic Drugs of 1971, and their amendments, outline a method whereby cannabis can be sold in state package stores. In Oregon all distilled alcohol products are sold in state liquor stores. We decided to place marijuana in these stores rather than create a new system of stores exclusively for cannabis. Our proposal will change the name of the Oregon Liquor Control Commission to the Oregon Drug Control Commission.

A property tax limitation measure passed in Oregon that has cut funding for schools and this has led to teachers being laid off and school programs being cut. The state is seeking new revenue to offset these property tax cuts, which phase-in until 1997.

Marijuana is both Oregon's largest agricultural crop and the largest industry in the state. We estimate that the legal sales of marijuana in our liquor stores will generate $500 million dollars in profit annually. This amounts to 20% of state revenue. We direct 65% of the profits to fund state primary and secondary education, 30% to fund higher education so that tuition fees may be lowered, 4% to fund drug treatment programs and 1% to fund a drug education program in schools.

Please help us make the ballot and win the Nov. 1996 election. Call us at 503-229-0428.

If you can't petition yourself, please donate to our campaign, Pay for Schools by Regulating Cannabis. Our address is:

PO Box 86741
Portland, OR 97286

Thanks! Regulate and tax hemp!

Pay for Schools by Regulating Cannabis

sponsors of the Oregon Cannabis Tax Act of 1997.



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