FOR THE PAST FIVE YEARS, a small group of Oregonians has tried to mobilize the state's reputedly large population of pot smokers. But even as the ballot measures to legalize marijuana went forward in Alaska and California, the issue has yet to reach voters here in Oregon. Since 1995, the Campaign for the Restoration and Regulation of Hemp (CRRH) has tried to place the Oregon Cannabis Tax Act on the ballot. Although supporters have found popular support, they claim their efforts have stumbled without funding.

Paul Stanford of CRRH also cites a unique detriment to their issue. "People are afraid," he explained. "Over half the people who claim they want to sign the petition won't because they are afraid they will face retribution." But after there were no prosecutions after the implementation of the Marijuana Medical Act last year, this concern may ebb.

The Cannabis Tax Act would allow the sale of marijuana through state liquor stores to individuals over the age of 21. Seeking to compromise with opposition, proponents have re-drafted the initiative after it failed to reach the ballot this past election. Towards that end, Stanford said the next version of the initiative would allow local governments to opt out and remain "dry" towns. Also, the next version of the initiative mandates that marijuana will not be advertised. This is an attempt to avoid the protests that alcohol and tobacco companies have faced over the past decades in regards to trying to reach minors.

"The more that we can assure [the middle-of-the-road voter that] we don't want to undermine our communities or hurt their children's development, the greater chance we have of being successful in this fight," concluded Stanford. In January, CRRH will again introduce a draft of the initiative, and begins looking toward 2002.