“Sensible Portland” Loses Bid to Place “Pot Priority” Issue on November Ballot; Council to Revisit Possible Changes in October

By Carol McCracken (Post # 856)

Last night, the Portland City Council defeated any remaining hope that “Sensible Portland” might have had to place the so-called “pot priority” issue on the November 8th ballot this fall.

Despite the best efforts of a grass roots effort to change city rules so that they are consistant with state rules on gathering signatures for petitions, the effort was defeated. A victory would have given Sensible Portland 10 more days to collect the 93 additional signatures needed to place its pot issue on the ballot because, as written, it would have been retroactive for Sensible Portland. A second proposed change also stipulated that if passed, the police department would be required to de-emphasize pot crimes in its arrest priorities. Something that many believe is already being done and something that others believe is the decision of the Police Department to make only.

After long-time city councilor Cheryl Leeman stated that there is a long history on the connection between collecting signatures in an allocated time that deserves a more comprehensive study, the council voted to return the matter to the staff for their recommendations in changes to be discussed at a workshop in early October. Importantly, the council also decided these changes, should any be made, would not be retroactive for the benefit of Sensible Portland. This vote ended their much sought after effort to prioritize the internal workings of the Portland Police Department.

Anthony Jelli, a leader of Sensible Portland told councilors that this was a zero budget effort done with all volunteers. Seth Berner said passage of this two-part ordinance is “citizen participation and that is what makes this a democracy. We have rules, but let us also make them flexible.” Jason Shedfeld also spoke in favor of making the state and city rules consistent with each other.

After considering putting off any further city council action until after the November election, Councilor Dory Waxman urged the council to re-consider the matter in early October. “We can do it sooner rather than later,” she urged.

(editor’s note) Councilor David Marshall who introduced the above referred change did not respond to an email from mhn.com to respond to the city council’s vote.