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Marijuana initiatives are picking up steam on campus

Transfer student Morgan McQuade signs the petition to legalize marijuana.

Transfer student Morgan McQuade signs the petition to legalize marijuana.

By Milo Frazier – Photo by Tania Corral

As Chemeketa’s afternoon classes let out, he stands at the ready outside of Bldg. 3.

With pens at the ready, Billy Kyle Locascio, a marijuana activist from Portland, has raised a few eyebrows on campus outside the Book Store under the covered walkway.

“People at a college should have the opportunity to sign these petitions,” he says.

The petitions in question are I-21 and I-22.

In brief, the petitions would decriminalize in one case and regulate it for sale in Oregon in the second.

Locascio, who has worked for marijuana reform since 2009, has developed a way of talking to people about what some may consider to be a somewhat taboo issue.

On this day, he waits as a group of students walks toward the spot where he is posted up like a point guard, ready to gather students around his oversized clipboards of petitions.

Locascio asks politely, “Would you sign the petition to decriminalize marijuana?”

The students slow down and stare, considering the question.

One stops, looks at others in the group, steps up, and takes the large clipboard from Locascio.

Slowly, cautiously, three other students from the group join in.

As the students gather around him, Locascio asks each of the students in turn if they are registered to vote. He then explains the two ballot initiatives.

Dressed in a vintage brown suede western jacket with tassels swaying as he talks, Locascio says, “I-21 is basically the decriminalization of marijuana so people won’t go to jail for it. I-22 sets up regulation for it to be sold in the state and also legalizes industrial hemp.”

The students nod and ask if they need to put their addresses down on the petitions?

Locascio smiles through his beard and long brown hair. “Yes,” he says. “And it needs to match the address you’re registered to vote at.”

In just three days at Chemeketa, Locascio says that he’s gathered more than 700 signatures for the two ballot initiatives.

“It’s been a good response,” he says of his time at Chemeketa. “Students have been pretty positive, with about 70 percent in favor and around 30 percent unsure.”

He pauses for a moment, then adds, “I’ve had several faculty giving positive feedback … as well as their signatures”.

Locascio is happy to see this number of signatures come in for the end of marijuana prohibition in the state.

”Prohibition simply doesn’t work”, he says. “If I can be a part of that change by doing this, then I feel I need to be out here.”

With all this discussion about marijuana, you might expect some kind of response from Chemeketa’s Public Safety officers or representatives.

But Locascio says that he hasn’t run into issues this year. He believes this is due to having a good understanding of the campus rules regarding clip-boarding.

Bryan Bagwell, one of Chemeketa’s Public Safety officers, says that he has yet to hear comments or complaints about Locascio on campus.

Bagwell says that clip-boarding is covered under freedom of speech on campus: As long as a petition gatherer does not interfere with students’ ability to move through the campus, Public Safety officers have no issue with their presence.

For his part, Locascio says that having a good understanding of campus rules and policy makes things go much smoother when you’re tackling taboo issues.

Alex Pugh, a third-year transfer student who intends to pursue a food science and technologies degree at Oregon State, is no stranger to working within the system to get results.

As an officer for the Chemeketa chapter of Students for Sensible Drug Policy, a club that raises awareness about drug reform on campus, Pugh also has spent time clip-boarding and tabling these issues regularly.

“Working with the club on campus, we plan on pushing signature gathering through this year and into next,” he says.

Pugh also welcomes the competition from Locascio.

“I see it at as an exciting thing because there are other organizations doing it,” he says.

“If we see the support both financially and through volunteers, I see this year being the year Oregon legalizes.”

Not everyone agrees with Pugh.

Jobe Olsen, a first-year psychology major, says, “I would rather wait and see how marijuana legalization works out in other states.”

As Locascio looks over the signatures, he quickly prepares for the next wave of students by clicking pens and changing out full petition sheets.

He’s already spent three hours at Chemeketa on this day, and he has two more in mind before he calls it a day.

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