Legalization of Marijuana in Oregon, United States 2019.
The Junky G Articles.
Oregon has long been one of the most open-minded U.S. states when it comes to cannabis. It was the first state to decriminalize small amounts of cannabis (back in 1973) and approve medical marijuana (in 1998). Oregon jumped on the recreational cannabis bandwagon along with Colorado, Washington, Alaska, and the District of Columbia (Washington D.C.) in 2014. Since then, laws in many other states have changed – and we’ve seen a lot of change in Oregon, as well. Let’s look at how the legalization of marijuana has progressed in Oregon.
The Story of Marijuana Legalization in Oregon
Even though they were among the first five states to legalize recreational marijuana, the struggle for these rights has been a long one for the residents of Oregon.
The state has a long history with marijuana, dating all the way back to 1973, when Oregon became the first state to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana, turning it from a jailable offense to something more akin to a traffic violation.
As early as 1998, Oregon voters approved marijuana for medical use – a controversial move at the time. Licensed patients suffering from a number of different conditions shown to be improved by the use of marijuana were permitted under new laws to grow their own marijuana or have someone else grow it for them. They were further permitted to maintain up to three mature cannabis plants, four immature plants, and possess up to one ounce of marijuana at any given time. This enabled them to legally buy cannabis seeds and grow their own medicine.
This was a huge step forward and garnered national attention for Oregon's progressive policies. Despite this early start, though, Oregon voters rejected retail availability and legalization of recreational marijuana in referendums in 2004, 2010, and 2012 before finally approving it in 2014.
Despite the general atmosphere of victory after a hard-fought battle in Oregon, not everyone was pleased with the outcome. The city of Coos Bay was one example; they had against marijuana legalization ever since it was first introduced as a medicinal resource.
Coos Bay imposed a year-long ban on all marijuana sales when medical marijuana was first legalized in the state of Oregon, citing that they needed time to update their zoning laws to allow space for dispensaries. In addition to expressing concerns about zoning, city officials cited federal law as the reason for their hesitation.
"While the current administration in Washington, D.C. has chosen not to enforce federal law in regards to marijuana in our state, that could change in the future with the change of future administrations,” said Coos Bay city manager Rodger Craddock.
Meanwhile, other Oregon cities simply allow dispensaries to operate in any designated retail space. In 2015, Oregon governor Kate Brown signed an emergency bill that officially legalized recreational cannabis sales from licensed dispensaries. Once the state set up a system to dispense licenses, as well as regulate and tax the product, the number of recreational cannabis retailers grew throughout the state – including in Coos Bay, which finally began allowing state-licensed retailers to operate in their city in 2016. Now the city is a sea of dispensaries hawking their wares to residents and tourists alike.
In addition to purchasing from licensed marijuana retailers, Oregon residents who are over 21 are allowed to legally transport, share, and gift up to one ounce of marijuana in public places, as well as keep up to eight ounces at home. They also have the right to grow up to four cannabis plants on their property, as long as they are kept out of public view. This has been a huge boon to those who sell cannabis seeds in the United States, as it’s given them an entirely new market of buyers.
Push for Retroactive Expungement for Marijuana Offenses
Under American law, people who have been convicted of a particular crime are not automatically pardoned and released if the crime that they had been convicted of is suddenly legalized.
This has led to a lot of frustration in states that have legalized recreational cannabis because at the same time tourists and residents are blissfully purchasing and puffing on cannabis-related goods, thousands of people remain in jail for an offense that is now perfectly legal. In addition to this, thousands more face job and housing discrimination as a result of their criminal record.
In 2019, Oregon (and other states with legal recreational cannabis) has the opportunity to prevent these problems by adding additional language to their recreational marijuana bill that would allow for the release and expungement of criminal record for thousands of criminals convicted of marijuana possession or distribution.
This would be a weight off the shoulders of the criminal justice system, lift a huge burden on the state’s taxpayers, and affect a great improvement in the quality of life for those whom it affects.
The District of Columbia included a similar provision in its legalization bill, but so far many of the other states with legal access to recreational marijuana have missed this opportunity.
Marijuana Tourism in Oregon
Since legalization, Oregon has been a popular tourist destination for recreational marijuana users from across the country. Several companies have even cropped up catering to this interest by offering customized "weed tours" of the area.
As the Oregon market quickly became saturated with marijuana dispensaries, creative entrepreneurs began to set their sights on a different demographic, opening upscale shops in the middle of Oregon's wine country designed to draw in oenophile tourists.
To many of these entrepreneurs, fine wine and fine cannabis go hand-in-hand. After all, wine tastings have become a fun and educational experience for adults, so why not do the same with cannabis tours?
Customers may even find themselves asking about the growing conditions, from soil type to sun exposure, just as one might enquire about the grapes of a particular vintage.
Now in 2019, marijuana shops in Oregon have the freedom to turn their wares into a highly valuable object that comes in a range of different qualities, paving the way for tourists by offering customized “designer” cannabis strains.
In short, the legalization of recreational marijuana in the state of Oregon is the light at the end of the tunnel for many, but not all, of the state's residents. The new legislation has attracted an abundance of tourism to the area. It generated $85 million in tax revenue in 2017 alone and has served as a model for other states and the entire marijuana industry. From seed banks to retailers to tour operators and tax collectors, cannabis legalization has really done wonders for Oregon.
With a little more work, it could also do wonders for the criminal justice system, releasing thousands of prisoners who have committed offenses that are now considered legal in the state – if not at the federal level.
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