Last Update: April 11, 2014
Oregon Legislature debates treating marijuana like alcohol
Oregon lawmakers have adjourned their short session in Salem, and once again, marijuana policy was a hot topic.
One of the major issues discussed was referring an initiative to November’s ballot that would legalize marijuana for adults and regulate it like alcohol. Some felt that voters were likely to vote on regulating and taxing marijuana in November and wanted the legislature to craft the language. Gov. John Kitzhaber stated that “the Legislature would be the right place to craft [a marijuana taxation and regulation ballot measure]” to ensure the program is properly regulated. Ultimately, the legislature decided not to refer a measure, leaving any chance for a November initiative up to the people. If you’re a resident of Oregon, please take a minute to ask your lawmakers to end the state’s costly prohibition of marijuana.
The legislature also discussed the role local governments have when it comes to registering medical marijuana facilities. Legislation was introduced that would have allowed towns and cities to ban medical marijuana facilities. Medical marijuana proponents countered that cities should be able to enact reasonable restrictions on the operation of such facilities but they should not be able to prevent patients from accessing their medicine near their homes altogether. Ultimately, the legislation was amended to allow local governments to enact a year-long moratorium on the issuance of medical marijuana facility registrations, giving them time for further debate.
Success in Salem in 2013
The 2013 session was quite a successful one for marijuana policy advocates in Salem. Gov. John Kitzhaber signed into law a bill adding PTSD to the list of qualifying conditions for the state’s medical marijuana program. He also signed two bills into law that reduce the penalties for possession of marijuana: one reduces the maximum sentences for possession of more than one ounce of marijuana, and the other eliminates the practice of suspending driving privileges for someone found in possession of less than an ounce of marijuana.
In addition to these proposals, local advocates were able to pass HB 3460 — a bill to allow medical marijuana facilities to obtain marijuana and immature marijuana plants from and sell marijuana to medical marijuana patients and their designated primary caregivers. Gov. Kitzhaber signed HB 3460 on August 14, making Oregon the 14th state (plus D.C.) to create a regulated medical marijuana dispensary program. Many thanks go to Sam Chapman and Oregonians for Medical Rights who orchestrated the lobbying effort to see this bill through.
Marijuana laws in Oregon
Arrests for marijuana possession are still happening across the state, despite the fact that Oregon decriminalized possession of up to an ounce of marijuana over 40 years ago. Unfortunately, these arrests disproportionately affect minority communities. According to the ACLU, African Americans in Oregon are more than twice as likely to be arrested for marijuana possession as their white neighbors. Additionally, the cost of a marijuana possession citation is excessive. Currently, an individual who possesses up to an ounce of marijuana could be levied with a typical fine of $650! In comparison, in 2008, Massachusetts’ voters chose to decriminalize possession of up to an ounce of marijuana by replacing their state's past criminal penalties with a $100 civil fine. For the same offense, Oregon penalizes its residents more than six times as harshly as Massachusetts.
For more information on the current legal status of marijuana, as well as information on use rates, arrests, and other helpful information, please see Marijuana In Oregon, authored by Dr. Jon Gettman, Ph.D.
Thank you for supporting the Marijuana Policy Project and all of our allies. If you have any questions concerning the status of marijuana policy reform in Oregon, you can contact MPP at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also, be sure to subscribe to MPP's free legislative alert service today.