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Oregon Marijuana Campaign Would Like Some Of Your Bitcoin Stash

Ed Andrieski
AP Photo
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An Oregon political campaign wants your digital donations. The group behind the initiative to legalize recreational marijuana says it's now accepting bitcoin contributions.Bitcoins are growing in popularity despite their frequently volatile value. Nationally, some congressional candidates started accepting the virtual currency after the Federal Elections Commission gave them the go-ahead in May.

In Oregon, the marijuana legalization campaign has already received bitcoin donations from as far away as Australia.

"I just thought it was a neat thing to try,” said Peter Zuckerman, the campaign’s communications director. “It's nothing that we've done before and I don't know how it's going to work, but I think it could work really well and I'm excited about the prospect."

Under federal rules, bitcoins must be converted into dollars immediately before they can be used. State campaigns don’t necessarily have that restriction. In Oregon, the secretary of state's office says bitcoin donations must be reported in the same way as regular cash contributions, but there are no other restrictions.

So what could a political campaign buy with its bitcoins? You can book a hotel room or buy office furniture online. A handful of bars and restaurants also accept them. But Zuckerman says there's always the option of simply converting them into U.S. dollars.

That's what the Libertarian Party of Washington's been doing. Chair Michael Pickens says the group has been accepting bitcoins for about a year.

"We are a promoter of competing currencies. That is something we advocate for. So I think it was more symbolic than anything else,” Pickens said.

In fact, Pickens says the Washington state Libertarians have received just two donations of bitcoins in the past year.

Chris Lehman graduated from Temple University with a journalism degree in 1997. He landed his first job less than a month later, producing arts stories for Red River Public Radio in Shreveport, Louisiana. Three years later he headed north to DeKalb, Illinois, where he worked as a reporter and announcer for NPR–affiliate WNIJ–FM. In 2006 he headed west to become the Salem Correspondent for the Northwest News Network.