PORTLAND, Ore. -- Marijuana advocates are gearing up to legalize the drug for recreational use in Oregon with a new measure poised to go on the November ballot.
According to their website, the Oregon Cannabis Tax Act would "legalize the sale, possession and personal private cultivation of marijuana." It would also set aside two percent of profits from cannabis sales for commissions that promote industrial hemp biodiesel, fiber, protein and oil.
Growers and sellers would need a state license and could only sell in cannabis-only stores.
Oregon became the second state to pass a marijuana law in 1998, following California. There are nearly 24,000 patients with medical marijuana cards in Oregon. Only state residents can obtain the card after registering as a patient in the Oregon Medical Marijuana Program with a qualifying debilitating medical condition diagnosed by a doctor.
Organizers will start collecting signatures Saturday.
Kyndall Mason with the DemocracyResources.com organization was working with the National Organization for Reform of Mairjuana Laws (NORML) and Oregon groups to gather signatures starting Saturday.
"Oregon has a long history of laws that conflict with federal law, that includes the Death with Dignity Act," Mason said. "The feds have (recently) given states more autonomy, specifically regarding medical marijuana laws," she said.
With the Obama administration's decision last month to soften the federal stance on medical marijuana, Cannabis Cafe in Northeast Portland recently opened, where glass jars hold donations of pot for medical users, and the cafe serves up meals and snacks for the hungry.
The idea could catch on in the roughly dozen other states with medical marijuana laws. Allen St. Pierre, spokesman for the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, or NORML, said the organization has already gotten inquiries from Washington state, Michigan, Montana and Maine.
Portland police have not received any complaints about the cafe and it was not under any special scrutiny, officials said.
Patients bring marijuana grown by themselves or by their designated caregivers. They also donate marijuana for other patrons to use. The cafe has a pool table and couches.
People who want to use marijuana at the cafe can't get inside until NORML members check their IDs to make sure they are patients registered with the state. The patients also have to be a member of Oregon NORML to use the cafe, pay a $20 a month fee, and a $5 coverage charge at the door. The money goes toward operating costs.
California voters will also decide whether to legalize recreational marijuana use for adults after an initiative was certified for the November ballot.
Mason thinks the proposed law will catch on with most Oregonians.
"As the years have gone by, a lot of people are kind of fed up with the drug war."
The group will start collecting signatures and training volunteers ate the Cannabis Cafe at 700 NE Dekum on Saturday at 10 a.m.