This morning I posted the news that the OCTA initiative here in Oregon only gathered less than two-thirds of the valid signatures it needs to qualify for the ballot. That’s pretty bad news, of course, but not an insurmountable obstacle. OCTA was filed in January and certified in March for petitioning. That’s 107,000 signatures OCTA turned in by the end of May, so a decent amount for five months. However, with a turn-in validity of 51%, another 60,000 or so will have to be submitted in three weeks, July 6. These will be signatures gathered from a six-week period. The math doesn’t look good for OCTA’s chances of maring the ballot, I’m afraid, unless some heroic signature gathering efforts take place in the next three weeks.
Speaking of not looking good, I had just finished writing the post when I had to dash off to the mailbox and then to the bank. Across from the UPS Store where my mailbox is situated there is a Whole Foods Market. This is all on the Hawthorne Boulevard neighborhood of Southeast Portland, which is a busy pedestrian business district with a bit of a hipster feel. It’s well known to the cannabis community; Jack Herer’s son runs the Third Eye Shoppe on this busy street in addition to a few other “head shops” and my favorite one, Mellow Mood, is across the boulevard from my UPS Store (convenience is but one reason I prefer Mellow Mood). It has its share of hippies and artists and musicians but is mostly frequented by everyday Portlanders1.
So there, out front of the Whole Foods Market, which (if you don’t know) is an upscale grocery specializing in organic foods and stuff that Portland’s expanding vegetarian / vegan / raw / lactose-intolerant / gluten-intolerant population needs, is a man sitting at a small folding TV tray with a simple white sign at his feet bearing a pot leaf and the words “LEGALIZE MARIJUANA”.
Now I don’t want to be mean, because I know the guy, and he’s one of the most sincere dedicated activists I know. When there is an action alert, an event, a meeting, a hearing, a protest, whatever it might be, you can count on this guy. He’s very friendly and knowledgeable about the general issues involved in marijuana prohibition and more so on the issues of medicinal use of cannabis.
But his is the picture that Webster’s might put in the dictionary for the definition of “freaky looking hippie”. His mid-length hair, uncombed, shocks of it leaping away from his skull in frazzled groups as if there were a static charged invisible balloon orbiting his head. His too-stereotypical olive drab 70s’era Army coat. I’m not going to go on, again, to avoid picking on someone personally, because that’s not the point.
The point is that no matter how educated you are on the issue and eager to act on it, if you really want to get marijuana legalized, you need to understand that it takes a team. No one person is going to accomplish passage of an initiative at the state level that recognizes our right to sow seeds. So why does it seem to me that the leaders of some legalization efforts don’t understand how to direct their volunteer efforts?
If you’re a fan of basketball, you know the 7-footer is likely to be the center, maybe the power forward. The 6-footer better be a damn good point guard with a killer outside shot. And the funny looking 5-footer? He runs out with that towel-broom to mop up the sweat when the taller guys are on a timeout. No matter how well the 5-footer jumps, shoots, dribbles, and passes, no matter how much he wants to be in the NBA, he is not going to be nor should he be2.
So it is with legalization, and specifically, the front line contacts that are meeting the public and asking them to sign petitions to legalize marijuana. We are already suffer perception issues with the public who associate us with laziness, slovenliness, rejection of authority, and hippie-dippie idealism. It’s not so much that people fear pot legalization; it’s that they don’t want to see what they consider “potheads” all over their neighborhoods or, worse, their children becoming one. It’s not fair or right but it is.
Just north in Washington State, people who are offended by the idea of treating gay people equally had to go petition signature gathering to place a referendum on the ballot to take away the recently-recognized right of gay people to marry whomever they like3.
“The current definition of marriage works and has worked,” said Joseph Backholm, the chair of Preserve Marriage Washington, as he stood next to stacked boxes of petitions.
The Washington secretary of state’s office recommends that referendum campaigns submit about 150,000 signatures in order to provide a cushion for invalid or duplicate signatures. Backholm estimated the anti-gay marriage campaign was delivering about 240,000 signatures.
I betcha the petition gatherers for that referendum didn’t solicit while wearing their hoods or carrying a “God Hates Fags” sign.