Monday, March 13, 2006

Are Potheads Smarter than the Portland Biz Alliance?

I'd say the answer is...unresearched, but some empirical data might be coming down the pike soon. As LoadedO warned you (or wet your joint-sealing whistle for) last month, a city petition to effectively decriminalize general adult marijuana use has been submitted for consideration. Last week, the Auditor approved the petition and authorized the collection of signatures in support of this ballot measure:
CAPTION:Makes marijuana offenses lowest City law enforcement priority, with exceptions.

QUESTION:Shall City make adult marijuana-related offenses the lowest law enforcement priority, with certain exceptions, and establish citizen oversight committee?

SUMMARY:The measure adopts a City ordinance making law enforcement activities relating to adult marijuana-related offenses the City’s lowest law enforcement priority. Lowest priority does not apply to specified marijuana offenses relating to minors, specified offenses occurring on public property, private property or near businesses, driving under the influence of marijuana, or offenses occurring within 1,000 feet of schools. Affected law enforcement activities include investigation, citation, arrest, property seizure, prosecution assistance and cooperation with state and federal agencies. The City could not accept funds to be used for enforcing adult marijuana-related offenses. The measure creates a citizen oversight committee to aid implementation of measure, collect grievances and report to City Council. The measure requires Portland Police and other agencies enforcing marijuana laws to submit reports to citizen committee and requires citing or arresting officers to submit reports to citizen committee after arrest, citation or property seizure for marijuana-related offenses. The Mayor must send an annual letter to voters and federal and state officials describing the City measure and requesting federal and state action.

The First Things First coalition, with the backing and support of many prominent Portland Business Alliance members, was rather infamously exposed a couple of weeks ago as the Gang That Couldn't Get People to Sign Straight, failing to collect the nearly 27,000 valid signatures to qualify. Excuses, floated conspiracy theories and noncompliant signees aside, the fact remains that some of the City's top business entrepreneurs were not savvy enough to get their petition on the ballot despite spending almost $400,000.

I'd say the chances of chief petitioner Chris Iverson raising anywhere near that kind of money are about the same as Tom Potter whipping out a fatty at Wednesday's Council meeting and firing up. But he may have a leg up on the megamerchants; I'm going to go out on a limb and suggest that Iverson's initiative will turn out to be an easier and less complicated sell than repealing public campaign finance. The difference may be that for the pot petition, the signees' eyes will already be glazed over before they even start reading the ballot title--and that will be a good thing for getting signatures. And if we want to talk about saving City taxpayers money that could best be spent elsewhere, as Ginny Burdick and the PGE Posse tried to do with VOE repeal, imagine if Portland cops spent as much time working on the meth epidemic as they do on the Potheads of the Park Blocks.

I'm clearly having too much fun with this, but while I cop to not actually believing that the Bong Hit Bill's success in getting on the ballot will prove that "Friends of Marley" are smarter than the PBA...I won't discount the evidence out of hand. Huff huff fail, puff puff pass!