Marijuana petitioners were asked to leave the fairgrounds parking lot before county officials resolved any “confusion” about where they could gather signatures Friday.
Ed Medina Jr., chief petitioner of an ordinance to allow recreational cannabis sales in Klamath Falls, said a volunteer seeking signatures at the Klamath County Fairgrounds was told to leave the area Friday night. Medina and the group are working on efforts to gather more than 1,700 signatures to put recreational marijuana back on the ballots for the November election.
Following the incident, Medina contacted Commissioner Kelley Minty Morris to say that he felt their first amendment rights were violated. A letter that outlines national petitioner rights was also sent to the county.
“Its pretty disheartening to know that our community would discriminate based on personal beliefs, and deny the rights of any citizens,” Medina wrote in his email.
Minty Morris responded shortly after to correct the issue. The county commissioner said there was talk between a vendor in the area — the Klamath Basin Home Builders Association — and petitioners that “led to some confusion.” Minty Morris said she then contacted Medina to tell him that petitioners were allowed in the area.
“He and his colleagues came back to the fairgrounds and spent several hours petitioning visitors,” Minty Morris said.
Oregon rules on petitions and signature circulations do not mention guidelines on public places or county buildings. This is the result of there being no state regulation that says where people can and cannot petition, according to Deb Royal, chief of staff for the Oregon Secretary of State’s office.
“You can pretty much be wherever you want to be until someone comes and tells you you’re on private property,” Royal said.
Petition staff and volunteers could violate state law when they get false signatures, attempt to get signatures of those who say they cannot vote, make offers for signatures or alter information on sheets, according to documents from the Secretary of State’s office.
Earlier in February, petitioners set up klamathstrong.com to list petition locations and gather donations. Medina said they have gathered 30 to 40 percent of their valid signatures so far and would ramp up efforts throughout spring.