With summer in full-swing, and with months of political bickering already behind us, the 2013 legislative session has adjourned for many states, with most of the remaining few finishing their final days. During this session, cannabis reform has been a popular and much-discussed topic in numerous states.
As a result, Colorado now has a regulation and taxation system in place for their newly-legal recreational cannabis industry, legislatures in Illinois and New Hampshire have approved measures legalizing medical cannabis, Vermont lawmakers voted to decriminalize small amounts of cannabis (which is already in effect), Nevada voted to legalize medical cannabis dispensaries, etc., etc..
With all of the movement made so far this year, one state stands out as having made the most progress in regards to their cannabis policies – the year obviously isn’t over, but we don’t see the outcome changing.
The state? Oregon.
Oregon’s Legislature – and governor – has taken multiple steps to drastically alter the state’s cannabis laws for the better, and activists continue to push for further reform.
Once each of the approved-proposals takes effect, these changes will be made to Oregon’s cannabis laws:
- The possession of up to an ounce of cannabis will no longer be a misdemeanor charge – it will instead be a civil infraction (Senate Bill 40).
- The possession of 1 to 4 ounces will be reduced from a felony, to a misdemeanor; even in states like Washington, where small amounts of recreational cannabis has been legalized, the possession of an ounce and a half or more remains a felony (Senate Bill 40).
- The possession of up to an ounce will no longer result in the suspension of someone’s driver’s license – something that will effect over 5,000 people a year (Senate Bill 82).
- Dispensaries will be explicitly legalized, finally providing patients in the state with a safe and (hopefully) consistent means to obtain their medicine. The measure which makes this change has been sent to the governor for final consideration; he’s expected to sign it into law (House Bill 3460).
- Post traumatic stress disorder will be added as a qualifying medical cannabis condition (Senate Bill 281).
In addition to these changes, in April Oregon’s House Judiciary Committee become one of the first legislative committees in U.S. history to approve a measure which would explicitly legalize cannabis; the measure – which would have legalized possession, private cultivation and state-licensed retail outlets – has failed to advance, but has garnered a large amount of attention.
In response to the legislature’s refusal to act upon full legalization, the proponents of last year’s Measure 80 – which would have legalized cannabis in Oregon but failed narrowly in November’s general election – have filed two legalization initiatives (one a constitutional amendment, one a state-law change) aimed at the 2014 ballot.
All-in-all, it’s been a great year for cannabis law reform, especially in Oregon. We couldn’t be more excited to see the changes that will take place in the coming months and in the next legislative session!