The State of Oregon’s legislature passed some wide-ranging marijuana reforms that quietly flew under the radar of most national media. In the next legislative session, the state may take on full legalization and enact sweeping protections for not just cannabis farmers, but all farmers.
While the state was the first to decriminalize marijuana, making an ounce or less only a ticket, anything over an ounce was a felony. That changed when the legislature created a new misdemeanor charge for possession between an ounce and a quarter pound. The automatic suspension of driver’s license that came with the pot ticket -- whether you were driving or not -- has been removed. Possession of up to a quarter-ounce of hash or hash oil has also been driven down from felony to misdemeanor level.
On the medical front, post-traumatic stress disorder was added as a qualifying condition for the Oregon Medical Marijuana Program, benefiting thousands of veterans and victims of trauma. The legislature also passed a law creating a medical marijuana dispensary system, something activists placed on the ballot twice as an initiative, failing both in 2004 and 2010. Those dispensaries should be operational in 2014.
This upcoming session promises many positive developments for marijuana reform. Complaints about the medical marijuana fee increases from the previous session have already been addressed in the making of rules so that patients on disability return to their discounted $20 application fee.
The increase in fees from $100 to $200 for most patients must still be addressed. The program has always been self-funded, but now lawmakers are setting the fees for medical marijuana based on funding emergency medical services, drinking water programs, school health centers, family planning, midwifery, trauma systems and the seniors farmers market program, too.
The legislature is also under great pressure to craft a legalization bill, to either pass or to refer to the voters as a referendum. The state’s largest paper, The Oregonian, has twice warned the lawmakers that if they don’t pass a sensible legalization law, marijuana activists are likely to pass something less restrictive in 2014 or 2016. Statewide polling shows support at 57% for legalization.
Another bill of interest was just enrolled that could be of great importance to marijuana growers. The bill would prohibit “local laws or measures to regulate agricultural seed, flower seed, nursery seed and vegetable seed” or their products. That sounds like a protection for every home grower and every medical marijuana dispensary from the local restrictions and municipal bans that have plagued towns in California, Washington, Colorado and Michigan.
"Radical" Russ Belville is the host of The Russ Belville Show.