NPR Story
6:10 pm
Thu July 3, 2014

Oregon Marijuana Campaign Wants Some Of Your Bitcoin Stash

The group behind the initiative to legalize recreational marijuana in Oregon is 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.

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

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," campaign director Peter Zuckerman said. "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."

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 has been doing. Chair Michael Pickens said the group has been accepting bitcoins for about a year.

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

In fact, Pickens said the party have received just two donations of bitcoins in the past year.

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