On Wednesday, Portland NORML Executive Director Russ Belville and Communications Director Kaliko Castille drove to Salem to hand-deliver a letter from Portland NORML to our state senators and representatives. They were then joined by Deputy Director Scott Gordon to attend the presentation by Oregon Liquor Control Commission chairman Rob Patridge to the legislature’s joint committee for Measure 91 implementation. Also in attendance were Anthony Johnson, Chief Petitioner of Measure 91 and head of New Approach Oregon, as well as many Oregon marijuana activists, including Anthony Taylor, Todd Dalotto, Lori Duckworth, and federal medical marijuana patient Elvy Musikka.
Here are some reactions from the activists in attendance:
My name is Russ Belville and I am the Executive Director of Portland NORML, an Oregon chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. I’m writing today to introduce myself to you as a representative of the 71 percent of Portlanders who supported Measure 91, our citizen initiative to tax and regulate adult personal marijuana consumption. Oregon’s Measure 91 has been hailed as “the gold standard” of legalization initiatives to date by drug policy experts nationwide. Indeed, Measure 91 was supported 56.1 percent of Oregon voters, the greatest margin of support of the four states that have legalized marijuana so far, and garnered more support than any statewide candidate or citizen initiative (except for the Equal Rights Amendment).
We are disturbed to learn that there are attempts by lobbyists to undermine the intent of Measure 91 and betray the clear language of the law approved by voters. Senate Bill 542 in particular, which would supersede Measure 91’s vestment of sole taxation authority with the state and allow city councils and county commissions to ban marijuana licensees, is opposed by our membership. Additional taxes and inconsistent statewide implementation will only benefit illegal marijuana dealers and thus place Oregon in jeopardy of violating federal legalization guidelines outlined in the Cole Memo. Furthermore, allowing lobbyists to re-write major portions of a citizen initiative to their benefit would set a terrible precedent that would erode public trust in the democratic process.
Our membership recognizes that some areas of law unmentioned by Measure 91 will need to be addressed. We are in total support, for instance, of Senate Bill 364, which would allow some current marijuana convictions to be vacated as if the citizen was sentenced under Measure 91’s requirements. It seems only fair that people should not continue to be punished for something now deemed legal.
We ask you to respect the democratic process and allow Measure 91 to be implemented as written and reject attempts to re-write the key provisions of the law. Where the measure is unclear, we ask you to consider how the issue in question has already been solved for alcohol and apply that standard to marijuana. After all, marijuana is objectively safer than alcohol, so we shouldn’t have to reinvent the wheel to deal with the adults who enjoy marijuana responsibly.
With Highest Regards,