Legalization Arrives in Oregon! It’s the Smell of Freedom

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Oregon has now joined the growing list of states that have fully legalized marijuana.

In November of 2014 the voters of Oregon approved Measure 91, with 56 percent of the vote, ending marijuana prohibition and legalizing recreational use. Under the terms of that initiative, marijuana officially became legal in Oregon last week, on July 1, 2015, allowing adults to possess up to eight ounces of marijuana in the home and up to one ounce outside the home; and to cultivate up to four plants per household, out of public view.

The state has until Jan. 1, 2016 to issue regulations regarding the issuance of licenses to commercially cultivate and sell recreational marijuana, and retail outlets are expected to be open by late 2016. In an attempt to provide a legal supply of recreational marijuana more quickly, the legislature just approved a proposal that will permit the existing legal medical marijuana dispensaries to begin selling marijuana to recreational users on as Oct. 1, 2015. It is great to see the state legislature make a special effort to implement the will of the voters in a timely manner.

The Smell of Freedom

On the eve of the end of marijuana prohibition in Oregon, Portland NORML organized a midnight celebration (and seed give-away, now legal in Oregon) on Burnside Bridge, under the iconic Portland, Oregon sign, where thousands of celebrants exercised their First Amendment rights, and lit-up en masse, as the clock struck midnight. The Portland police were present but allowed those gathered to enjoy this moment in history and made no arrests for public smoking, despite the huge cloud of marijuana smoke rising from the bridge. It seemed like an appropriate way to celebrate the end of prohibition in Oregon.

Portland NORML Executive Director Russ Belville issued a statement thanking the police for exercising discretion and not hassling the celebrants, and making it clear the job of legalizers is not yet complete in Oregon. “We have achieved legalization. Now we seek equalization. We will not stop until we have the same rights as beer drinkers and cigar smokers,” Belville said, noting marijuana consumers still need protection from job discrimination, so they don’t lose their jobs for marijuana smoking, unless they come to work in an impaired condition; protection for parental rights, so marijuana smokers are no longer presumed to be unfit parents, without evidence of abuse or neglect; and protection of Second Amendment rights, so smokers do not lose their right to own guns.

Oregon now joins Colorado, Washington, Alaska and the District of Columbia as states in which marijuana is fully legal. It is no longer contraband, nor can the smell of marijuana any longer be used as probable cause to search a vehicle, or to obtain a search warrant to search a person’s home. Legalizing marijuana accomplishes more than simply making it legal for us to smoke; it returns basic Constitutional protections to those of us who smoke marijuana responsibly.

And the Oregon model is, for the moment, the most progressive of the first few legalization laws, in terms of the quantity of marijuana products permitted. In addition to the eight ounces and four plants permitted in the home, it covers all forms of marijuana, including edibles and tinctures, allowing an individual to legally possess up to one pound of solid edibles, 72 ounces of infused liquids, and one ounce of concentrates or extracts. That should satisfy even the most enthusiastic users.

Reversing the Terrible Consequences of Marijuana Prohibition

It is especially heartening to see the state legislature now building on the voter-approved legalization by enacting legislation to undo some of the damage previously inflicted by marijuana prohibition. On July 2nd Governor Kate Brown signed HB 3400 into law, reducing most marijuana offenses that remain on the books from a felony to a misdemeanor, and providing for many prior marijuana convictions to be set aside, sentences reduced, and records sealed. An estimated 78,000 marijuana convictions may be eligible for reduced sentencing or to be set-aside altogether under this latest legislation.

By taking care to provide relief to those citizens previously convicted of marijuana offenses no longer considered criminal, Oregon has shown the way for adopting legalization in a fair manner. And it will hopefully encourage legislators in the remaining legal states to adopt similar provisions. One should not be burdened with a criminal conviction for an offense that has since been legalized, and we have an ethical obligation to do what we can to minimize the damage done to so many of our fellow-smokers during prohibition. As Belville said in his release, our work is far from done with the adoption of basic legalization; now we seek to be treated in a fair manner in all aspects of our lives, and to end all discrimination based on our use of marijuana.

About Author

Keith Stroup is a Washington, DC public-interest attorney who founded NORML in 1970. Stroup first smoked marijuana when he was a first-year law student in 1965 and has been a regular smoker and a cannabis activist ever since. In 1992 Stroup was the recipient of the Richard J. Dennis Drugpeace Award for Outstanding Achievement in the Field of Drug Policy Reform presented by the Drug Policy Foundation; in 2010 he received the Al Horn Award from the NORML Legal Committee for a lifetime of work advancing the cause of justice; and in 2012, Stroup received the High Times Lifetime Achievement Award. Keith currently serves as NORML's Legal Counsel and on NORML's Board of Directors. He resides in Falls Church, Virginia with his wife.

10 Comments

    • Don’t worry…its already decided and was about 10 years ago when factual evidence was at hand for the higher ups..they have to keep face though, so give it another 10-20 years for the world to catch up…since regardless, they have to have some kind of popular support even if they are “dictators”

  1. PhDScientist on

    We don’t need more research to tell us that Medical Marijuana should immediately be legalized in all 50 states. Ask any American who’s gone through Chemotherapy who’s used it. Ask the parents of any American kid with a seizure disorder who’s life its saved. We need the President to cut through the red tape and take personal action on this issue right now. Americans are suffering and dying — needlessly!

    For Cancer patients, for kids suffering from Seizures, and for so many others, safe, legal, access to Medical Marijuana is a matter of life and death

    Please call the whitehouse comment line at (202) 456-1111 and ask that the President have Marijuana removed from Schedule 1.

    Call every day, and ask everyone you know to call every day, and to keep calling, for however long it takes, until he does it. Please do everything you can to get as many people as possible to call and keep on calling.

    Do everything you can to help with this effort.

    With luck the effort will go viral.

    The lives of countless Americans depend on it.

    • The legislator writes laws and the president authorizes them…you vote for the legislators.

      Don’t forget, 50% of people want prohibition now. Stop acting as though thats not true- not to say its correct

      Ethanol was “medicalized” during prohibition. Get a grip.

      Ending poverty would lessen their suffering much more

  2. Freedom doesn’t have an aroma…and cannabis legalization isn’t about “freedom” in the general sense of the term.

    Its probably more accurate to use the word Liberty

  3. PhDScientist on

    Please call and email your Senators and Representatives and ask them to pass the CARERS act NOW. Americans of all ages, but especially Children, are suffering and dying — needlessly — American who’s lives depend on safe, legal, access to Medical Marijuana.

    This is no joke.
    Its a matter of life and death for countless Americans.

    Its MORALLY INDEFENSIBLE to leave Marijuana on Schedule 1 for even one second longer.
    Its one of the most important MORAL ISSUES of our time!

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