New Approach Oregon’s petition to make marijuana legal for adults has qualified for the ballot this coming November, Huffington Post reports. More than 87,000 valid signatures were collected for the petition, which allows adults age 21 and older in Oregon to possess up to eight ounces of marijuana privately and one ounce in public and would have the marijuana market regulated by the Oregon Liquor Control Commission. Any sales taxes collected would be distributed to schools, law enforcement, and drug prevention programs.
It is very likely that this initiative will pass in November, with a recent poll stating that 57% of Oregon’s likely voters support recreational marijuana use. A similar measure was nearly approved in 2012. In addition, the governor of Oregon, John Kitzhaber, has stated that he would uphold the will of the people if the bill makes it to his desk. In January, he commented on Colorado and Washington, “I hear the drumbeats from Washington and Colorado.” He said, “I want to make sure we have a thoughtful regulatory system. The legislature would be the right place to craft that.”
Beginning this week, the Rand Corporation will send representatives to Vermont to work with the state’s Secretary of Administration on a study of the effects of taxing and regulating marijuana similarly to alcohol, the Manchester Journal reports.This research was mandated by an amendment to a bill that made several improvements to Vermont’s medical marijuana law. Vermont will be funding the initial part of the study, paying Rand $20,000, with up to $100,000 in private donations coming from the non-profit organization GiveWell. Rand Corporation is a non-partisan organization with no official position on marijuana legalization.
Governor Peter Shumlin, Commissioner Keith Flynn of the Department of Safety, and other top officials have expressed interest in learning more about how marijuana regulation would impact Vermont. State Senator David Zuckerman, who sponsored a marijuana regulation bill this year, said he was enthusiastic about the study process: “I think the study will help with legislators and the public who inherently think it’s a good idea but want evidence they can hold up to show people.” Matt Simon, MPP’s New England political director, said, “The narrative from Colorado has been ‘so far, so good.’ The sky clearly hasn’t fallen.” The report is due to be completed by January and lawmakers hope that it will lead to an informed debate on marijuana policy in the coming legislative session.
As of midnight Wednesday, D.C.’s marijuana decriminalization law is officially in effect. The new law — approved by the D.C. Council, signed by Mayor Gray,
and submitted to Congress for a 60-day review — replaces misdemeanor criminal charges for possession of up to one ounce of marijuana with a civil violation, costing the offender $25. Now D.C. has the third-least punitive marijuana laws in the country, behind Colorado and Washington State.
It is important to note that this is only a change in District law, not federal law. Marijuana possession on federal lands, including the National Mall, is still a criminal offense and violators may be arrested and prosecuted. Public use is still illegal as well. Please see our summary of this new law for more information.
Ohio has recently seen increased support for allowing adults to choose to consume marijuana, according to Cincinnati.com. Public opinion nationally is at an all time high, with 54% in support of making marijuana legal, and this has prompted many officials, including law enforcement, to reconsider the issue. Chris Lindsey, legislative analyst for MPP, attributes the changing attitudes to Americans viewing marijuana as less dangerous, saying they “realize [marijuana] is a much safer alternative to alcohol. It doesn’t lead to violence and harmful effects.” In addition to this, many view the “war on marijuana” to be futile, including a number of law enforcement officers.
Roger Moore, the Chief of Police in Chillicothe, Ohio, believes that marijuana is like alcohol and should be treated similarly. He believes that in light of the opiate epidemic that many places across America are facing, marijuana offenses are minor at best. Moore says, “I believe it’s just like alcohol. Just because you drink beer doesn’t mean you drink hard liquor … Those that do marijuana, they do marijuana. There’s plenty of people who don’t smoke marijuana who do heroin, ecstasy and cocaine. (Marijuana enforcement) is not what my priority is in Chillicothe, it’s heroin.”
In Ohio, possession of 99 grams or less is a non-criminal citation, and residents can possess up to seven ounces of marijuana before facing any felony charges. Despite these relatively lenient penalties, prosecuting adults for marijuana in Ohio continues to saddle citizens with unnecessary criminal records at enormous costs in law enforcement time and resources.
A ballot initiative in Oregon is gaining support and local marijuana policy reform advocates describe it as their “number one priority,” the Oregonian reports. New Approach Oregon is working in conjunction with Drug Policy Alliance and others to raise awareness of their campaign to pass the ballot initiative, which would allow adults to possess up to 8 ounces of marijuana. Oregon’s Liquor Control Commission would regulate and oversee the market. Dave Kopilak, an attorney who helped to draft New Approach Oregon’s initiative, claims that if it is passed, Oregon will have lower taxes on marijuana than Washington or Colorado.
Revenue generated by the adult retail market that went to the state would be distributed to a variety of public health and safety programs: 40% would go to the common school fund, 20% to mental health and addiction services, 15% to state police, 10% to cities’ law enforcement, an additional 10% to local county law enforcement, and 5% to drug abuse prevention services. If it qualifies for the ballot, the initiative will be up for a vote in November.