In November, 2012, voters in Washington and Colorado shocked the world by legalizing the possession of up to an ounce of recreational cannabis. This has greatly increased the momentum behind the cannabis reform movement, and as such, voters in Oregon, Alaska and Washington D.C. will have the opportunity this November to legalize cannabis themselves, as will several cities in Maine and Michigan. However, Oregon’s initiative is a little different, and could lead the way towards even more progressive cannabis laws taking hold in other states.
In Washington State, possessing an ounce of cannabis is legal, but possessing a gram over that is a misdemeanor, and possessing over 40 grams is a felony (with a potential five year prison sentence). Clearly this is nonsensical; why would a substance that’s legal be a felony if you possess just a little over the limit? In Colorado, possessing over an ounce but no more than two ounces is nothing but a ticketable offense, but possessing two to six ounces can land someone a jail sentence of up to a year.
Oregon’s initiative – led by New Approach Oregon – would take things a step further, and would legalize the possession, use and sale of up to a half pound of cannabis (eight ounces). Although one could rightfully argue that the limit should be even higher, or removed entirely – there’s no limit on how much tobacco you can possess, for example – eight ounces is a massive difference in comparison to a single ounce.
Oregon’s initiative legalizes the private cultivation of up to four cannabis plants, and allows cannabis retail outlets. The tax structure is also far more reasonable than the markets in Washington and Colorado; in fact, a recent study found that under New Approach Oregon’s initiative, cannabis would likely be around $140 an ounce, far less than prices in Colorado and Washington, with ounces going between $350 and $700. The lower tax rates of Oregon’s initiative is far more likely to undercut the black-market, which for many people is one of the primary goals of legalization.
Polling released in June found that a majority of Oregon voters support legalizing cannabis, but the numbers are close; 51% to 44%. Those in Oregon interested in helping New Approach Oregon get their initiative approved this November should click here. Those interested in donating to the campaign should click here.