For the past two weeks, petition sheets have been quietly circulating around Portland by volunteers hoping to convince registered voters to support a plan that will decriminalize less than an ounce of marijuana.
If passed, the ballot measure, headed up by initiative activist Parker Bell, would exempt Portlanders over the age of 21 from criminal penalties for possessing an ounce or less of weed. Last week, though, an article in the Oregonian pointed out that state law already exempts possessors of less than an ounce from criminal penalties—but they can still be cited and fined, like with a traffic ticket.
In response, Bell submitted another initiative petition, specifically including "civil penalties" in the types of sanctions that pot smokers would no longer be subject to.
Additionally, he added a provision that allows police to still enforce anti-pot laws within 1,000 feet of a school zone. He wouldn't have made either change, he said, if it weren't for the Oregonian's attention.
"I'd like to give the Oregonian a big thanks for furthering the cause of the legalization of marijuana," Bell says, adding that he hopes to have the new petition out in a week or so.
Last year, Bell worked on a petition that would make "marijuana the lowest law enforcement priority in the city," which was headed up by then-city council candidate Chris Iverson. The petition, which failed to make the ballot, was frequently carried along with conservative ballot measures and was used as a "stopper" petition in order to get potential signers to, well, stop. Bell has filed an identical petition, which he plans to run alongside the "ounce or less" petition. But, he says, he won't be working with any conservative campaigns this time around—in fact, he says, he won't even allow them to carry the signature sheets.
"I want people to know that the guys holding the sheets are doing this because they believe in the cause," he says.