Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber

Given the polling, political energy, and demographic changes there is no doubt that in the near future Oregon will legalize marijuana. If activists don’t legalized it with a successful ballot initiative campaign this year, they are almost guaranteed to achieve victory in 2016 or 2018.

Governor John Kitzhaber (D) accepts this inescapable fact and told The Oregonian he thinks it would smart if the state legislaturewould preemptively adopt their own legalization proposal to put before voters. From The Oregonian:

Some lawmakers also have suggested working up a ballot referral that would legalize recreational use of pot. Kitzhaber said that might be a good idea.

“I hear the drumbeats from Washington and Colorado,” states that recently approved legalization measures, he said. Oregon voters could do the same.

“I want to make sure we have a thoughtful regulatory system,” Kitzhaber said. “The Legislature would be the right place to craft that.”

Hopefully, more governors will see the writing on the wall and start to respond accordingly. Citizen initiatives are an important tool for getting around elected officials who refuse to tackle certain issues because of corruption or political games, but they can be a very crude tool. They are not the best way to deal with complex regulatory issues because once put on the ballot small technical fixes can’t be made.

The marijuana reform movement doesn’t want to run expensive ballot initiative campaigns in each of the 24 states which allow them. The hope is that a few successful initiatives will prove legalization is what the American people want and that will cause state legislatures to start doing their job. The initiative option is ultimately more a stick to encourage action by legislators than an entire plan in its own right. Half the states don’t even allow initiatives and there is no federal initiative process.

Jon Walker is the author of After Legalization: Understanding the future of marijuana policy