The Oregon Secretary of State’s office has fined a marijuana chief petitioner $65,000 for paying petitioners for each signature collected, which is against the state’s constitution.
The chief petitioner, Robert Wolfe, is collecting signatures for Initiative 24, which would create a constitutional provision that would eliminate laws that are against the “private personal use, possession or production of marijuana by adults 21 years of age or older.”
Wolfe paid petitioners by the signature, rather than hourly, which is allowed in the state. Any signatures gathered by petitioners who were paid by the signature rather than hourly will not be counted toward the group’s total, which need to reach 116,284 by July 6 in order to get the Initiative on the November general election ballot. As of this month, Wolfe had revealed that his petitioners had gathered approximately 80,000 valid signatures thus far.
The investigation of the campaign began because petitioners are required to turn their time sheets to the state Elections Division, and upon review it became evident that petitioners were not being paid hourly. Two petitioners eventually submitted signed statements, explaining that they had been paid by the signature for 26 sheets of signatures. For each of the 26 sheets, Wolfe was fined $2,500. The Elections Division is currently investigating other petitioners who also may not have been paid on an hourly basis.
This is the largest fine that has ever been used as a penalty for violating the pay-per-signature ban in Oregon. Previously, the largest penalty fine was $10,900.
Wolfe has 20 days to request a hearing or pay the penalty. Of the fines, Wolfe said, “I can’t imagine it has merit.” The current ban on pay-per-signature petitioners is in place to avoid fraud, and also to ensure that petitioners are fairly compensated for their work.