The initiative campaign to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of illegal drugs in Oregon is rapidly collecting the signatures needed to qualify for the November ballot.
The Drug Policy Alliance, a New York group financing the measure, announced Thursday that it has so far collected 125,000 signatures for the initiative, which also boosts state funding for drug treatment.
To qualify, the measure needs 112,020 signatures from registered voters. The alliance said in a press release that it intends to continue canvassing to make sure it has enough valid signatures. The group started gathering signatures in early December.
Devon Downeysmith, a spokeswoman for the initiative effort, said backers expect to turn signatures into the State Elections Division in May for verification. That would be well in advance of the July 2 deadline for submitting initiative signatures.
Under the measure, Oregon would be the first state to decriminalize possession of illegal drugs. However, numerous localities have moved away from prosecuting minor drug cases. Instead of prosecutions, the Oregon initiative calls for a $100 non-criminal citation that is waived if the offender seeks a health assessment related to drug treatment.
The measure would largely provide for additional funding for drug treatment by taking a major share of the tax revenue generated by legal cannabis sales.
Janie Gullickson, one of the measure’s chief sponsors, said in a statement that “Oregon can do better” in tackling drug abuse.
“Oregonians are dying every day because they can’t access treatment,” she said. “And in the meantime, if they are caught with drugs, they are criminalized, which only creates further barriers to accessing treatment and recovery.”
Critics have charged the measure would further encourage the use of dangerous drugs.