Oregon: Best Legislative Session Ever For Marijuana Policy Reform?

(Illustration: Where's Weed?)By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Marijuana policy reform is advancing on multiple fronts in Oregon, with both medicinal cannabis and general legalization measures gaining traction in an increasingly friendly Legislature.

"We are seeing the best legislative session for drug policy reform -- certainly since the Oregon Medical Marijuana Act passed in 1998, and perhaps ever -- this go-round," Paul Stanford, president of The Hemp and Cannabis Foundation (THCF) and the Campaign for the Restoration and Regulation of Hemp (CRRH), which owns Hemp News.

In the last week, the Oregon Senate:

• Passed SB 281 on a 19-11 vote. This bill adds post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) to the list of debilitating medical conditions which qualify patients for the protections of the Oregon Medical Marijuana Act (OMMA).

• Passed SB 40, 24-6. This bill realigns the felony level designations of Manufacturing and Possession to be consistent with the rescheduling in Oregon of marijuana from Schedule I to Schedule II; and creates misdemeanor marijuana possession (more than one ounce, less than four ounces) and misdemeanor hashish possession (less than 1/4 ounce).

• Passed SB 82, 18-12. This bill removes the drivers license suspension incidental to conviction for possession of less than an ounce of marijuana.

Meanwhile, in the Oregon House:

• HB 3460 adds "Medical Marijuana Facility" to the list of Cardholders under the OMMA and, with the patient's permission, allows growers to be fully reimbursed for their excess marijuana (the amount cultivated minus the patient's need) by medical marijuana facilities, and allow MMFs to be fully reimbursed by patients and their caregivers. This would functionally legalize Oregon's de facto distribution/dispensary system. It passed from the House Health Care Committee to the Joint Ways and Means Committee on an encouraging 8-1 vote. The bill was endorsed on Wednesday by the Medford Mail Tribune.

• HB 3371, a tax-and-regulate legalization proposal, passed 6-3 out of the House Judiciary Committee to the Revenue Committee, where proponents believe it is gaining traction for a possible referral.

Compassionate Oregon, a grassroots lobbying group, is lobbying for SB 281 (the PTSD bill) and the misdemeanor provisions of SB 40.

The Oregon Criminal Defense Lawyers Association, a nonprofit affiliate of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, is lobbying for SB 40 and SB 82.

Collective Voice, a coalition of medical cannabis providers, is lobbying for HB 3460.

New Approach Oregon is lobbying on behalf of HB 3371.

(Graphic: Where's Weed?)