Cannabis and marijuana were completely legal in Oregon until 1935, when the state passed the Uniform State Narcotic Drug Act. Today, Oregon is one of six states with laws that decriminalize possession and allow the use of medical cannabis. Although Oregon has not legalized marijuana, possession of less than one ounce of marijuana is punishable only by a fine of $500 up to a maximum of $1000. Possession of less than one ounce of marijuana is a violation, not a criminal offense. However, if the possession is within 1000 feet of a school, the possession of less than one ounce is a Class C misdemeanor. Growing or selling marijuana carries stiffer penalties.
In 1986 Oregon voters defeated Ballot Measure 5, which would have allowed the personal use of marijuana. In 1998 Oregon voters passed Ballot Measure 67, which made us the second state to allow medical use of marijuana. That same year we defeated Ballot Measure 57, which would have made possession of a limited amount of marijuana a class C misdemeanor. In 2004 we defeated Ballot Measure 33, which would have created nonprofit dispensaries for medical marijuana. A similar proposal, Ballot Measure 74, was defeated in 2010 by 55%.
In 2006, among states producing cannabis, Oregon was the fourth largest indoor producer and the tenth largest cannabis producer overall. In 2007, Oregon was the seventh-ranked state for marijuana use by those over 11 years of age.
This year we will vote on Ballot Measure 80, The Oregon Cannabis Tax Act, which would allow personal marijuana and hemp cultivation and create a commission to regulate the sale of commercial marijuana. The federal laws prohibiting cultivation and use would still stand. Among state figures, former Secretary of State Bill Bradbury supports the measure and Governor John Kitzhaber opposes it. Recent polling put the initiative at a statistical dead heat.
On October 12th, we heard the pros and cons of the measure from Paul Stanford, chief petitioner of Ballot Measure 80, and Rob Bovett, the District Attorney for Lincoln County.