Man seeks vote on making pot offenses county's lowest priority

An Ashland man wants to make adult marijuana offenses the lowest priority for law enforcement officials in Jackson County.

Daniel Morrow has submitted an initiative to the county clerk's office that would do just that if it is approved by voters in an upcoming election.

"It is time for Jackson County's laws to reflect the priorities of its citizens. Citizens of Jackson County believe that spending money on the enforcement of misdemeanor possession of marijuana is a waste of budget resources, and that public policy should reflect this," he said in an e-mail message Thursday.

The initiative, filed March 5, calls for an ordinance that would make adult marijuana use the "lowest law enforcement priority" for county law enforcement operations, such as the sheriff's department and the district attorney's office — not city police departments, according to Jackson County District Attorney Mark Huddleston.

The initiative would also create an oversight committee to oversee the implementation of the ordinance.

Reducing the time county law enforcement officials spend on minor pot offenses would allow them to concentrate more on violent crimes, Morrow said.

"The goal is to make Jackson County a safer place by reducing budget stresses. This will allow our police to spend their time with more serious crimes, while maintaining their current level of staffing," he said.

To get a measure on the ballot, backers of the initiative must gather signatures from 4,624 registered county voters.

Similar measures have already been approved by voters in several cities, such as Seattle and Denver, but this may be one of the first initiatives at the county level, said Anthony Johnson, political director for Voter Power, an Oregon medical marijuana advocacy group that has an office in Medford.

If a measure did pass here, it would be the first such measure to be approved in Oregon, Johnson said.

Huddleston said he opposes the initiative because he thinks it is unneeded and would be ineffective.

"I think it's a waste of time and completely unnecessary and I'm opposed to it," he said. "The bottom line is that law enforcement doesn't spend a lot of time chasing small amounts of marijuana anyway."

— Ashland Daily Tidings

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