Judge Upholds $65,000 Fine Against Oregon Marijuana Legalization Petitioner

SALEM, OR — An Oregon judge has upheld a $65,000 fine levied against Oregon Marijuana Policy Initiative sponsor Robert Wolfe for allegedly violating state law prohibiting paying petitioners by the signature.

The fine was issued by Oregon Secretary of State Kate Brown in April 2012 because it was reported that Wolfe was paying petitioners by the signature, instead of by the hour, which violates Oregon state law.  According to the Oregonian, that is the largest fine ever levied for violating the petitioning law, surpassing a $10,900 fine issued in 2008.

Senior administrative law judge Alison Greene Webster upheld the fine Friday, ruling that based on testimony from petitioners she believed Wolfe was in violation of the petitioning law.

Wolfe’s attorney, Dan Meek, plans on challenging the fine in the Oregon Court of Appeals.  He says the fine was levied for allegedly paying two petitioners by the signature on a total of only 26 signature sheets out of over 30,000 submitted by the campaign.

In a statement released Friday, Meek says the allegations were made by two workers “incapable of telling the truth”:

The Secretary of State’s case depends on the testimony of the 2 circulators. Only one of them appeared in person at the hearing. Cross-examination showed that he repeatedly lied about all aspects of circulating the petition and made up stories that could not be true. He claimed to have spent hours collecting signatures at a bustling Saturday Market in January and February 2012, even though Saturday Market does not operate at all during those months. His lies became so apparent that he shouted out that he wanted to “take the Fifth” and not answer any more questions.

The other circulator failed to appear in person at the hearing. But the testimony showed that in April 2012 he filed a wage-and-hour complaint against Mr. Wolfe with the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries (BOLI), swearing that he had worked, collecting signatures on the petition, every day from February 1 through February 16. But he admitted, over the phone, that in fact he was in Texas during all of those days, returning to Oregon on February 17. Obviously, he could not be working on an Oregon petition in Texas.

The Secretary of State’s case depends on the testimony of those 2 witnesses, who have zero credibility.

Wolfe’s initiative, the Oregon Marijuana Policy Initiative, which would have asked Oregon voters to approve a state constitutional amendment to legalize marijuana,  failed to make the 2012 ballot despite collecting 175,000 signatures, far in excess of the 116,000 needed to qualify for the ballot.

Secretary of State Kate Brown’s office declared nearly 48% of the collected signatures invalid, prompting Wolfe to sue Brown in Marion County Circuit Court.  The amendment never made it on the ballot, despite the legal challenge.

Another measure, the Oregon Cannabis Tax Act, also known as Measure 80, successfully made the 2012 ballot but was narrowly defeated on election day.

Judge Upholds $65,000 Fine Against Oregon Marijuana Legalization Petitioner was written by and appears in full on The Daily Chronic.

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