Fewer pot measures on ballot could mean better odds for remaining one

Fewer pot measures on ballot could mean better odds for remaining one
(AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, File)

SALEM, Ore.- With the deadline looming to submit petition signatures to get measures on Oregon's November ballot, two marijuana-legalization initiatives seem unlikely to make the cut, which could improve the odds for the one that remains.
   
During the last several months, pot-legalization advocates in Oregon have been collecting signatures to put up to three measures before voters. But the sponsor behind two of those measures said last week there's little hope his proposals will collect the signatures needed to make the ballot by the July 3 deadline.
   
"There's no way that we could possibly qualify," Paul Stanford, the pot-legalization advocate behind the two measures, told The Associated Press on Wednesday.
   
Stanford, who runs the Campaign for Reformation and Restoration of Hemp in Oregon, said that the organization stopped paid canvassing efforts for its two ballot measures.
   
While some canvassers went on strike last week complaining of delayed paychecks, Stanford said that was not the reason for the decision to halt paid petitioners. He said it recently became clear they would not possibly gather the required number of signatures - around 116,000 for a constitutional amendment legalizing recreational use and 87,000 for a statute allowing the state to regulate and tax pot cultivation, processing and sales.
   
State records show that as of June 23 the group had submitted fewer than half the needed signatures on either measure.
   
That leaves in contention only one other legalization initiative - and that should be a good thing for its backers, allowing them to focus their message better and reduce voter confusion, said Len Bergstein, a lobbyist and political consultant. Bergstein has worked on Oregon ballot-measure campaigns.
   
"The prospects for the measure increase with the idea that there's only going to be one of them on the ballot," Bergstein said. "Clarity's on their side on this one, and confusion or haze would be their enemy."
   
The remaining measure is backed by the group New Approach Oregon, which announced Wednesday that it would be submitting 145,000 signatures - far beyond the 87,000 needed to qualify for the ballot - to the Secretary of State's Office on Thursday.
   
Their proposal would not amend the constitution but would give the Oregon Liquor Control Commission the job of regulating marijuana like it does alcohol.
   
"Having only one measure on the ballot likely makes it easier for voters," said Anthony Johnson, the group's director. "The additional measures would have forced voters to consider different regulatory structures, different possession limits, potentially whether they wanted to put marijuana legalization into the constitution or not."
   
In 2012, Stanford successfully got a marijuana-legalization initiative on the ballot, but voters rejected it 47 percent to 53 percent. Legalization advocates spent millions helping to get Washington's and Colorado's measures passed, but they avoided Oregon, complaining that the measure was poorly drafted and didn't qualify for the ballot in time for them to make an effective case to voters.
   
Now the same groups that backed the efforts in Colorado and Washington have poured hundreds of thousands of dollars into New Approach Oregon, which has spent more than $825,000 so far this year.
   
Stanford said he'll vote for the measure if it qualifies for the ballot.