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Comparing Marijuana Legalization Measures In Oregon, Colorado, And Washington


vote for marijuanaOregon Joins Colorado and Washington in voting on marijuana legalization this election.

History was made late Friday as the Oregon Secretary of State announced that the Oregon Cannabis Tax Act turned in enough valid signatures to qualify for the 2012 ballot. Oregon joins Washington and Colorado in voting for marijuana legalization this year, the first time in history three U.S. states will put the legalization question to voters.

Beginning with California’s original Prop 19 in 1972 through California’s latest Prop 19 in 2010, every previous attempt to legalize marijuana in America has ended in defeat. In the forty years since that first attempt, there have only been eight statewide legalization measures to make the ballot in just five states (Alaska, Nevada, Colorado, California, and Oregon).

Here is a look at the three legalization measures to be put before the voters in the November 2012 election:

Comparing Oregon, Colorado, & Washington Legalization Measures[i]

State Click here for more coverage of Oregon
Initiative Oregon Cannabis Tax Act (OCTA or I-9) Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol (A-64 Colorado) New Approach Washington (I-502)
Personal Possession Allowed, Limit Not Designated[ii] 1 ounce in public; all of the cannabis produced from harvests of personal plants at the grow site. 1 ounce of cannabis;
16 ounces of solid products (hash, brownies, etc.);
72 ounces of liquid products (tinctures, etc.)
Personal Cultivation Allowed, Limit Not Designated 6 plants, only 3 in flower. NOT ALLOWED
Age Limit 21 Years Old 21 Years Old 21 Years Old
Public Consumption None except non-minor areas where prominent signs allow it. No “open and public” consumption. None.
DUID Standard Current Oregon Law (demonstrated impairment) Current Colorado law (demonstrated impairment) New 5ng THC / mL blood per se DUID; zero-tolerance under age 21.
Regulatory Body New Oregon Cannabis Commission (OCC) Colorado Department of Revenue Washington State Liquor Control Board
Hashish / Hash Oil? “Cannabis means all parts, derivatives, or preparations of the cannabis plant.” “Marijuana means… every compound, manufacture, salt, derivative, mixture, or preparation of the plant, or its seeds, or its resin, including concentrates.” “Marijuana means… every compound, manufacture, salt, derivative, mixture, or preparation of the plant, its seeds or resin.”
Industrial Hemp?[iii] Legalized as any crop, no licenses, fees, or regulation; all seeds & starts are considered hemp. Hemp defined as <0.3% THC cannabis, department shall set hemp regulations. Marijuana defined as >0.3% THC, implying hemp is any cannabis <=0.3% THC and thereby legalized.
Commercial Cultivation Individuals may cultivate for sale to the OCC Marijuana Cultivation Facilities Marijuana producer’s license available for cannabis sales to processors[iv]
Commercial Processing Individuals may process cannabis into hash, hash oil, medibles, tinctures, salves, etc. for sale to the OCC Marijuana Product Manufacturing Facilities Marijuana processor’s license available for cannabis sales to retailers.
Commercial Sales OCC Cannabis Stores, may limit amounts and frequency Retail Marijuana Stores Marijuana retailer’s license available for cannabis sales to the public. Can only sell marijuana.
Commercial Zoning Not specified, OCC may set regulations Not specified, department may set regulations >1000 feet of schools, playgrounds, other locations with minors.
Taxes & Fees Not specified 15% excise tax at wholesale level[v] (cultivator to processor or retailer) 25% excise tax at each stage of sales (producer to processor to retailer to customer)
Medical Marijuana OCC Stores sell cannabis at cost to qualifying patients. Act does not apply to medical marijuana, which retains its current regulatory structure. Improves medical marijuana by providing protection from arrest for some possession.[vi]
Restrictions Sale to minors or unlicensed sale forfeits one’s right to buy, sell, or process cannabis Localities may ban commercial cultivation, processing, retail through their governing body or by ballot initiative only in even-numbered years.[vii] May set maximum number of retail outlets / county. Signage can be no more than 1600 square inches. No advertising near kids.
Fee Distribution After OCC / AG costs, 90% to General Fund, 7% to Drug Abuse Treatment, 1% for hemp promotion, 1% hemp biodiesel, 1% to school drug education. First $40M to Public School Capital Construction Assistance Fund; remainder to General Fund[viii] Dedicated marijuana fund run by State Liquor Control Board. $125K to Healthy Use Survey; $50K to social and health reports; $5K to UW for web-based marijuana education; $1.5M to State Liquor Control Board; remainder: 15% to drug treatment; 10% for drug education; 1% to state university research; 50% to Washington Health Plan; 5% to community health care; 0.3% to building bridges program; remainder to General Fund.



[i] This table has been updated to better explain the Colorado excise tax (hat tip: Steve Fox of Amendment 64 Campaign).

[ii] OCTA only specifies that commercial cultivation and sales must be licensed by OCC and that personal cultivation and sales need not be licensed. Presumably, you could grow a football field of plants and possess a large Hefty Bag full of pot under OCTA, so long as you sold none of it.

[iii] All hemp production still remains illegal under federal law without a DEA permit.

[iv] I-502 producers and processors may not have a direct or indirect financial interest in retailers.

[v] Colorado’s TABOR requires any tax increase to go before a vote of the people. 15% is merely the maximum authorized wholesale excise tax that the legislature may enact.

[vi] Washington’s medical marijuana law has no registry cards and only an affirmative defense to prosecution. Thus, medical marijuana patients can now be arrested by police, and then they have to provide an affirmative defense to the judge. Under I-502, these patients would now be protected from arrest for 1 ounce of cannabis, 16 ounces of medibles, or 72 ounces of tinctures.

[vii] Updated to clear up confusion that a ballot initiative was the only process by which a locality could ban marijuana business. It is not; localities may ban through their regular local governmental procedures.

[viii] Added — I missed this portion in first reading Colorado’s Amendment.

Article from National Cannabis Coalition and republished with special permission


About Author

Executive Director: Russ Belville has been active in Oregon marijuana reform since 2005, when he was elected second-in-command of the state affiliate, Oregon NORML. After four years with Oregon NORML, Russ was hired by National NORML in 2009, working as Outreach Coordinator and hosting the NORML Daily Audio Stash podcast until 2012. Since then, Russ launched the 420RADIO marijuana legalization network and is the host of The Russ Belville Show, a live daily marijuana news talk radio program. Russ is also a prolific writer, with over 300 articles posted online and in print in HIGH TIMES, Huffington Post, Alternet, The Weed Blog, Marijuana Politics, and more.


  1. They’re trying to eliminate ALL personal growing in Canada as we speak.

    We had the first NATIONAL medicinal cannabis program on the planet, and our latest elected criminal is trying to create a monopoly and take between $1,500.00 and $3,500.00 EVERY MONTH from anyone who simply wants or needs cannabis to survive.

    Makes sense, huh? People who are least able to pay thousands of dollars a month to a private corporation under government monopoly rules simply get to suffer and die! Boy, isn’t it nice to know that if that happens in Canada, it will immediately be ported into “americanalegalese” and brought south?

    FOUR WORDS tell you all you need to know about cannabis prohibition statutes, and why they need to be repealed once and for all:

  2. No debate neccessary if people stop playing “word games” that were never designed to be fixed, designed by people who couldn’t care less about ANY of us, and who honestly think that because they WORK FOR US, that WE ARE THEIR SLAVES to control.

    Screw all ths statutory idiocy…just get rid of it and move past this garbage once and for all.

    If 99% of people are NEVER going to read the bills they’ve already picked their sides and decided on, then the least they can do is to read THE ENTIRE SOLUTION to prohibition and make an informed decision for a change.

    1) DEschedule.
    2) Repeal.
    3) DONE!!!

    That’s it. Three whole words. No new taxes. No new agencies. No new government employees. No new “crimes on paper.” No new fines. No new fees. No new “licenses.” No new regulations. No new “random home spot checks.” No new rights reductions. No new version of “prohibition with a new name.”

    It’s just done. Finished. Over. Kaput. Gone. Ended. Terminated. No more. Devoid of existence. Shuffled into history. Never to return.

    But what do I know? I’m not the one with ten million dollar annual BULLSHIT BUDGET and a plan to derive a permanent income stream by lying to people like “some organizations” so enjoy doing…for 40 years now.

  3. I’ve got a far, far simpler solution to prohibition that not only does NOT require reading thousands of words per statutory document “given the force of law”, but is the only TRUE SOLUTION to all of the evils created by cannabis/hemp prohibition: ENDING IT!

    Here’s the ENTIRE PLAN, so make sure you’re prepared to read ALL OF IT!

    1) DEschedule.
    2) Repeal.
    3) DONE!!!

    Now, was that REALLY so hard to read all of those THREE WHOLE WORDS?

    Do you all REALLY prefer any of the hundreds of different versions of “prohibition rebranded so that it sounds a little bit nicer, but really makes things worse for everyone” instead of ENDING IT?

    Want more reasons to stop justifying prohibition? Here’s a few, in the form of the latest release of Granny’s List, brought to you by Overgrow The World!

    Granny’s List: https://www.facebook.com/download/473863285965904/Grannys%20List%20July%202012.pdf

    The Index: https://www.facebook.com/download/397245633663952/2012%20July%20Index.pdf

    Definitions: https://www.facebook.com/download/343978745688354/A%20few%20definitions%20.pdf

  4. jamesnshoreline on

    The no on I-502 trolls are loud online! However, I’m voting yes on I-502 and the only people the “NO” crowd is convincing happens to be them selves!

  5. I-502 does not change the state’s medical cannabis law. If you are growing marijuana now legally under state law it would also be legal to do so under I-502. If you are growing marijuana illegally now, you would still be growing illegally under I-502. Again, if you are a medical cannabis user with a recommendation, you can still grow your own, as now, under I-502.

  6. It is truly amazing that there are 3 states that will actually be voting on legalization this November. Thanks for all the people in Washington who worked so hard, gave money, and are still working to put I-502 over the top. Where so many others have failed, New Approach Washington has been successful.

    Also, gotta thanks NORML, which stands with New Approach Washington in its fight to reform marijuana laws in our state. And not just NORML. The Drug Policy Alliance, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, Students for Sensible Drug Policy, SAFER, Marijuana Policy Project, the ACLU; along with NORML’s chapters in Washington are all supporting Initiative 502, “to substantively reform cannabis laws and therein challenge the federal prohibition.”

    And then there are the opponents–the feds led by Gil K and the DOJ, the Washington state top cops, the Republican moralists, the drug prevention folks who promote DARE and similar programs, and the ineffectual minority of “reformers” who are de facto prohibitionists.

  7. Jay Jefferson on

    Do companies fire employees for being drunk on the job even though alcohol is legal?

  8. Are you aware that that isn’t legal right now? And how many people have been arrested for sharing a joint or a bowl? Why would that change when I-502 passes? This is a diversionary tactic being used by the opposition to distract from the core issue and it completely misses the forest for the trees.
    And no. The fatuously titled “Cannabis Child Protection Act” will never make the ballot because the organization running it doesn’t know how to read bills, write bills, or run a campaign.

  9. I think you mean “allude”. So you’re implying that I’m up to something sinister because I didn’t recite entire sections of the bill? If you’ll notice, I was responding to one particular lie. I am evading (or attempting to “elude”) nothing. Section 15, 16, and 17 contain the regulations on possession, sale, manufacture, etc. It allows for the possession of up to an ounce of usable bud, sixteen ounces of solid food, and 72 ounces in liquid form. Is there something else here you want me to mention or address? I’m happy to continue to spell the legislation out to you but you sould really just read it for yourself and stop believing the lies being spread by others. I’m ready to discuss any section of this legislation. I will not have it said or even implied that I am shying away from anything.

  10. Scam run by the liquor industry!? Wow. You will say anything to defeat this bill won’t you. Do I really need to point out that there is no evidence for that whatsoever?

  11. So here’s my two cents on I-502, for what it’s worth:

    1. I’m not a Washington resident, so solely looking at this as a marijuana advocate, I’d really like at least one of these initiatives to pass and put some pressure on the federal government.

    2. As someone who has been arrested and jailed for marijuana possession, I’m for anything that will keep one less person from going through the BS I had to deal with.

    3. I haven’t been below the proposed legal limit in years, and I drive a lot, without any issues. Since I travel to Washington fairly often, this truly has me concerned. If I lived in Washington, and was a medical marijuana patient, I would have a hard time voting for a law that could unfairly exposed me to a DUI charge. I still don’t understand why we need test for nano gram levels anyway. Couldn’t the police just do their job and determine this via a field sobriety test on the scene? I wish this DUI provision wasn’t included. This law could have passed without it, IMHO. We are asking Washington residents to bite the bullet for the good of the “movement.”

    4. It would be hard for me to vote “no” on any initiative that’s goal is to legalize
    marijuana, just on principle.

    But all that being said, my opinion means nothing, I don’t live in Washington and will not be voting obviously.

    Here at The Weed Blog, we will not be officially picking a side. We will however, be doing our best to layout the facts the best we can, and present both sides of the issue. We will be posting guest pieces from both sides, and let the debate flow.

    So in the coming months, there will be a ton of opportunities to debate this, hopefully civilly lol. There are a lot of good, hard working people out their fighting for reform and lets all remember, Don’t hate… Debate!

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