Oregon Measure 91 Committee Passes Reform Bill That Ends Most Marijuana Felonies

   

House Bill 3400 unanimously passed out of the Oregon Joint Committee on Implementing Measure 91 Monday night. The bill has gone through many ups and downs and transformations and it contains some good provisions and some bad provisions. In this blog, I will focus on some of the good provisions, as these aspects of the bill seem to have gone unnoticed by the media, but they will likely have the greatest impact upon the most number of people’s lives.

Let’s recap what’s legal in Oregon for adults over the age of 21, without an Oregon Medical Marijuana Program card, on July 1, 2015: cultivation of up to 4 cannabis plants per household; possession of 8 ounces of usable marijuana in private; one ounce of marijuana flowers in a public place; 16 ounces of solid marijuana products; 72 ounces of liquid cannabis products; and one ounce of cannabis extracts made by a licensed processor. Sharing up to an ounce of marijuana with an adult over 21 is legal, so long as nothing of value is exchanged for marijuana. Driving under the influence of marijuana remains illegal, but Oregon doesn’t have a per se marijuana DUI law like Washington or a “rebuttable presumption” law like Colorado.

Most importantly, House Bill 3400 ends most marijuana felonies in Oregon. If, as expected, HB 3400 is signed into law, there will only be six marijuana felonies in Oregon: delivery to a minor under the age of 18; possession of more than a quarter of unlicensed extracts; minors under 21 cultivating marijuana; adults 21 or older cultivating 9 plants or more (4 plants is legal, 5-8 plants a misdemeanor); and state licensees importing and exporting marijuana across state lines for consideration. The bill also clarifies the fact that households within 1,000 feet of a school can still cultivate 4 cannabis plants and that delivery, within the scope of the law (whether by licensees or freely shared homegrown cannabis), is also allowed within 1,000 feet of a school.

The felonies that remain will be the lowest felony level (Class C) and may be expunged after 3 years following conviction and probation/parole. Additionally, everyone convicted of past marijuana offenses will be able to set aside their convictions to be in line with the new classification. And since no marijuana penalty will be greater than a Class C felony, all marijuana offenses may be expunged from people’s records after three years. Currently, marijuana manufacturing and delivery cannot be expunged for 20 years, so HB 3400 will greatly improve thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of lives that have been hurt by the War on Marijuana.

Anyone that has paid attention to Marijuana Politics this legislative session, particularly Alex Rogers’ blogs, has seen that the Oregon Legislature has focused too much time on the Oregon Medical Marijuana Program and HB 3400 does contains provisions that impact the OMMP that myself, Alex and many Oregon cannabis law reform advocates are not happy about. We will discuss the provisions we are unhappy with in future blogs and will continue to work to repeal harmful provisions and generally improve Oregon’s marijuana laws.

Politics is a lot like making sausage, the process can be ugly and hard to watch. Unlike sausage, unfortunately, legislative bills usually don’t taste great for everybody and compromises are made. However, cannabis law reform advocates must learn to celebrate our victories and House Bill 3400 does include some good victories and gives Oregon certainly one of the best, if not the best, marijuana laws in the country, if not the world. Several members of the committee announced their intention to work on future bills that will bring marijuana penalties down even further in future legislative sessions. For a bit, let’s celebrate the progress made and thank the Joint Committee on Implementing Measure 91 for passing out a bill that will dramatically improve the lives of thousands upon thousands of people.

Anthony Johnson

Anthony, a longtime cannabis law reform advocate, was Chief Petitioner and co-author of Measure 91, Oregon's cannabis legalization effort. He served as director of both the New Approach Oregon and Vote Yes on 91 PACs, the political action committees responsible for the state's legalization campaign. As director of New Approach Oregon, Anthony continues to work towards effectively implementing the cannabis legalization system while protecting small business owners and the rights of patients. He sits on the Oregon Marijuana Rules Advisory Committee and fights for sensible rules at the legislature as well as city councils and county commissions across the state. Anthony helps cannabis business comply with Oregon's laws and advises advocates across the country. He also serves as content director of both the International Cannabis Business Conference and the Oregon Marijuana Business Conference, helping share the vision of moving the cannabis industry forward in a way that maintains the focus on keeping people out of prison and protecting patients. He was a member of the Oregon Health Authority Rules Advisory Committee, assisting the drafting of the administrative rules governing Oregon’s state-licensed medical marijuana facilities. He first co-authored and helped pass successful marijuana law reform measures while a law student at the University of Missouri-Columbia School of Law. He passed the Oregon Bar in 2005 and practiced criminal defense for two years before transitioning to working full-time in the political advocacy realm. His blogs on Marijuana Politics are personal in nature and don't speak for or reflect the opinions of any group or organization.