PORTLAND — Supporters of an initiative to allow the sale and production of marijuana and hemp throughout the state say they have more than enough signatures to make it on November's ballot.
One of the chief petitioners of Oregon's Cannabis Tax Act, Paul Stanford -- who has been working on the initiative since 1988 -- said he is 'very confident" supporters have more than the 87, 213 required signatures.
Stanford said he has 100,000 -110,000 valid signatures and that his initiative -- which he tentatively called Measure 80 -- is first in line for the 'validation process" later this month.
If everything goes according to Stanford's plan, hemp, which is currently illegal to cultivate, will contribute to an estimated $140 million in tax revenue for the state, and become an alternative source of fuel, food and fiber.
'This will become and economic windfall for farmers across the state," he said. 'Prohibiting America's oldest crop is wrong."
Stanford said hemp production will 'dwarf" the legalization of marijuana. He said that the taxation of marijuana will account for nearly 5 percent of the state's overall budget and that that number will greatly increase as the hemp industry develops.
Stanford said 90 percent of the proceeds generated by the Tax Act, if passed, will go to the state's general fund, 7 percent will go towards drug rehabilitation programs, 1 percent to drug education programs and 2 percent to the new state commissions for fuel, fiber and food.
Stanford said three separate licenses will be required for the cultivation, production and sale of marijuana and hemp. If the initiative is passed, a seven-member committee called the Oregon Cannabis Commission will be formed to sell the licenses and determine 'rules," Stanford said.
Once the initiative becomes a measure, Stanford said he will launch a $4 million ad campaign, backed by the United Food and Workers Union Local 555, which is the largest private sector labor union in Oregon and represents 18,000 workers in Oregon and Southwestern Washington, according to their web site.
UFCW president Dan Clay did not return The World's phone calls.
Along with the economic implications of the Tax Act, Stanford said consumers will see not only a drop in marijuana prices but also a drop in crime.
He estimated the black market price for an ounce of marijuana at $300-$500 currently. An ounce under the Tax Act would cost consumers $50 -$100.
Stanford said currently the state spends around $61.5 million in law enforcement costs related to marijuana. He thinks the act would eliminate nearly all of these costs.
'There will be less incentive for people to steal because they can grow it on their own or buy it in stores," he said referring to marijuana. 'There won't be a reason to buy it on the black market."
Coos County Sheriff Craig Zanni was quick to contradict Stanford's ideas about crime reduction.
'I don't think we will see a decrease in crime at all," Zanni said. 'The only effect it will have on us is figuring out how to deal with people driving while impaired."
Stanford said recent polls have shown as high as 56 percent of the state would support the Tax Act, and he believes similar measures in Colorado and Washington will help gain recognition and support.
The next step for the Tax Act will be making sure all the signatures supporting the initiative are valid. Once the initiative reaches the ballot, Stanford said his legislation -- which he designed to be upheld in federal court -- could spark a new era of economic fruition in the state.
'They aren't going to be saying we are the stoner state," he said. 'Oregon will be the cutting edge for new economic prosperity."