Pot advocates deliver petitions for Oregon ballot

SALEM, Ore. — Sponsors of an initiative that would legalize recreational marijuana traveled to Salem on Thursday to turn in boxes stuffed with enough signed petitions to bring their total signatures to 145,000 — far more than are needed for the measure to qualify for the November ballot.

The group New Approach Oregon held a news conference on the steps of the Capitol building, standing behind a makeshift podium of boxes plastered with campaign messages that called for recreational marijuana to be taxed and regulated.

“I am humbled, excited and just so pleased to help represent this new approach to marijuana,” said Anthony Johnson, the initiative’s chief petitioner.

Members of the group then carried the boxes across the street to the Secretary of State’s Office, where the signatures will be counted and verified. New Approach had submitted more than 83,000 signatures as of June 13. The five boxes turned in Thursday contained more than 61,000 additional signatures.

The Elections Division will use a statistical sampling process to validate the accuracy of the signatures, which needs to be completed by Aug. 2. The office may not begin that process until July 9 or later, said Summer Davis, a compliance specialist who received the boxes.

The initiative needs just over 87,000 signatures to qualify to put the measure on the ballot. But with a cushion of more than 57,000 signatures, supporters are confident they have met the requirement.

“It’s unlikely we’ll be challenged,” said Peter Zuckerman, a spokesman for the group. “But you never know.”

If Oregonians approve the measure in November, the state would join Colorado and neighboring Washington state in legalizing recreational pot.

The group’s proposal would legalize pot for adults over 21, while giving the Oregon Liquor Control Commission the authority to regulate and tax marijuana. The full details of that regulation are not spelled out in the 36-page initiative and will only be developed by the liquor board if the measure passes.

New Approach is backed by some of the same deep-pocketed donors who sponsored successful legalization efforts in Washington and Colorado in 2012. Their efforts have been boosted recently by the collapse of two other competing initiatives backed by Paul Stanford. In 2012, Stanford got a legalization measure on the ballot, but he was unable to secure the backing of those donors.

Voters rejected the 2012 measure 53 percent to 47 percent. But supporters this time say they’re confident they’ll get the votes they need. They have already poured more than $825,000 into their campaign so far this year.

There has been little organized opposition to the initiative.

If voters approve the measure, it would join an existing law that allows Oregonians to obtain marijuana for medical reasons. About 59,000 Oregonians have medical marijuana cards.

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