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Marijuana Activist Fires up Crowd

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Oregon has allowed marijuana for medical use since 1998, when voters passed Measure 67. Paul Stanford thinks it's time to make it legal for other purposes as well, and like M67's proponents before him, he hopes to decide the matter at the ballot box.

Stanford is the chief petitioner for the Oregon Cannabis Tax Act, an initiative that would regulate the sale of pot for recreational use and remove restrictions on the cultivation of industrial hemp, its less potent cousin.

The Portland activist was in Corvallis on Tuesday evening to round up support for his proposal, and about 30 people turned out at the Westminster House to hear what he had to say. The crowd was mostly middle-aged or older and included at least two attorneys and one city councilor.

In an appearance sponsored by the Pacific Green Party, Stanford argued that adults should have the right to use marijuana as they see fit and that criminalizing the weed has devastating consequences for society.

"Prohibition is a great evil," he said. "Families are being torn apart; people are being thrown in jail."

He also made the case for industrial hemp as an all-purpose plant that produces nutritious seeds for human and animal consumption, high-grade oil for biodiesel feedstock, and fiber for everything from paper to textiles.

While the Oregon Legislature recently passed a law allowing hemp cultivation, he said, it's so restrictive as to make commercial growing impractical.

"No plant makes more fuel, no plant makes more fiber, no plant makes more food per acre," Stanford said. "To take this plant and make it illegal is to me the height of idiocy."

The Oregon Cannabis Tax Act would set up a system of state-licensed stores where people 21 and over could buy marijuana. The price would be set by a state commission, which would also license farmers to grow marijuana for sale.

Adults would be allowed to grow their own marijuana, as well as buy or sell seeds and starter plants, without regulation. Industrial hemp – defined as having lower levels of psychoactive chemicals than marijuana intended for recreational or medical use – could be grown for fiber, fuel and food without a license.

Stanford estimates the state would bring in $140 million a year by taxing commercial pot sales while saving $61.5 million a year in law enforcement and corrections costs and creating a whole new class of "green" jobs for the state's struggling economy.

Some 90 percent of the marijuana tax revenue would go to the state general fund, 7 percent would be set aside for drug treatment programs and the remaining 3 percent would be divvied up between drug education programs and agricultural commissions to promote hemp cultivation.

Stanford must turn in 87,000 valid signatures from Oregon voters by July 7 of next year to get his initiative on the November 2012 general election ballot, and he's shooting for 135,000 to give himself plenty of margin for error.

He said he's gathered about 9,500 names so far, and he's hoping to get the rest in by this September so he can shift his focus to winning the hearts and minds of potential voters.

While 13 states, including Oregon, have decriminalized marijuana in small amounts, none has legalized pot outright, and the federal government continues to classify it as a dangerous narcotic.

If the Oregon Cannabis Tax Act passes, Stanford said, he fully expects it to be challenged in federal court. But because the initiative was drafted based on principles of constitutional and international law, he thinks it should withstand a legal challenge.

Perhaps more to the point, he cited a recent national poll that shows slightly more than half of Americans favor dropping legal sanctions against pot. That's a significant shift from years past, and Stanford takes it as a sign that, with Oregon leading the way, the country may finally be ready to legalize marijuana.

"The tide is turning in our direction," he said. "We think that winning here will be the break in the dam of prohibition."


News Hawk- Jacob Ebel 420 MAGAZINE
Source: gazettetimes.com
Author: Bennett Hall
Contact: Contact Us
Copyright: gazettetimes.com
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