Bend residents may soon have a say about whether they want their city spending money enforcing marijuana laws, a push that if successful could effectively decriminalize pot in Bend.
Local activist Ron Boozel submitted the preliminary paperwork last week to city hall that will clear the way for a public referendum on marijuana decriminalization. City recorder Patty Stell said Boozel could start collecting signatures as soon as Thursday if no one files a protest before the seven-day deadline expires today at 5 p.m. So far no one has raised an objection, noted Stell. In order to amend the city charter, Boozel would need to collect roughly 6,500 signatures from registered voters in Bend who support the change.
Thanks to recent change in state law that was enacted at the behest of the Central Oregon Builders Association, Boozel would have 24 months to do that. Previously, signature gatherers could circulate a petition indefinitely before submitting it for verification.
Once the signatures have been submitted, the city takes a random sampling and compares it against the signatures on record at the county. If petition gatherers manage to gather the requisite signatures within the two-year window, the city will place it on the next general election ballot.
However, even if voters ultimately support the move, there is no guarantee that it would stand up to a legal challenge. There’s also no way to prohibit the Deschutes County Sheriff’s or other law enforcement agencies from enforcing state laws within the city of Bend. If successful, though, the amendment would stop the city of Bend from aiding outside agencies with marijuana busts.
“The goal is to end the drug war in our city and to use those resources for other things and encourage the police to focus on real crimes,” Boozel said.