SALEM -- The Oregon chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union is backing a campaign to legalize marijuana in the state this year.
The ACLU has backed other pro-marijuana initiatives, including the one that passed in Washington State in 2012.
“It’s clear the war on marijuana is a failure. It’s ensnared numerous people, thousands of people into the criminal justice system needlessly,” said Becky Straus, Legislative Director for the ACLU of Oregon.
An attempt to pass a recreational marijuana initiative in in Oregon in 2012 failed.
But supporters say public opinion has shifted in their favor, and this initiative, proposed by a group called New Approach Oregon, is crafted to meet concerns raised in the past.
The initiative would legalize the use, sale and possession of marijuana to adults 21 and over, and tax it to pay for public services.
Not everyone thinks the initiative is a good idea.
“I think it’s a reckless move,” said Ernie Spada. “I think all these years saying ‘no to drugs’ and now we’re saying we need more tax money… and we should tax marijuana so we can have more money to spend.“
The ACLU counters that enforcing marijuana laws is a waste of government resources and unfairly targets people of color. Blacks are about as likely to use pot as whites, but are arrested far more often, according to Straus.
“Blacks are almost twice as likely to be cited or arrested in Oregon for marijuana usage than are whites. That’s a huge problem. It’s time to take a new approach,” Straus said.
The campaign has collected more than 100,000 signatures, according to the ACLU statement. To qualify for the ballot, 87,213 signatures must be turned by July 3.
Washington voted in 2012 to legalize marijuana. Clark County voted last month to ban pot sales outside city limits. Nearly 70 percent of Oregon counties have passed moratoriums on medical marijuana dispensaries.
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