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Will Oregon Be The First State To Legalize Marijuana Via The Legislature?


oregon house bill 3371 marijuana legalization judiciary committeeHistory was made at the Oregon Legislature today, when House Bill 3371 became the first Oregon cannabis legalization measure to have a hearing and pass out of a committee.  The bill passed out of the committee 6-3, with one Republican, Wayne Krieger, joining the committee’s 5 Democrats.  The bill now moves onto the House Committee on Revenue.

I am honored to have testified on HB 3371, a proposal to regulate and tax marijuana similar to how the state handles alcohol today.  I was joined by the bill’s primary drafter, David Kopilak, an attorney for Schwabe, Williamson & Wyatt; and John Horvick, a pollster for DHM Research.  Also, written testimony in support was submitted by David Lesh, a former Multnomah County Prosecutor; Shelley Fox-Loken, a former corrections officer and current member of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition; and US Congressman Earl Blumenauer.

Only one representative for the Oregon Sheriff’s Association spoke in opposition.

From the Statesman Journal:

“Marijuana legalization is coming to Oregon sooner rather than later,” said Anthony Johnson of Portland, an activist who leads New Approach Oregon. “It makes sense to regulate marijuana like alcohol and for the Legislature to take the lead on the issue and make sure sensible regulations are in place.”

But Sheriff Pat Garrett of Washington County spoke for the Oregon State Sheriffs Association, which opposes House Bill 3371.

“This act will not make the problems of marijuana abuse go away,” he told the House Judiciary Committee.

Most voters, politicians and policy makers understand that cannabis legalization is coming to Oregon, sooner than later.  The Oregon Legislature can take the opportunity to lead on the issue and craft a measure that contains their preferred regulations and tax structure.  If the Oregon Legislature doesn’t take the lead, then activists will put a different legalization measure on the ballot with fewer regulations and less tax revenue.  Hopefully, Oregon legislators will pass House Bill 3371 or refer the measure to the voters in November 2014.  We shall keep you posted here at NCC.

My complete written testimony in support of HB 3371:

Oregon House Judiciary Committee:

I represent New Approach Oregon, a coalition of local and national activists that favor smart marijuana reform and have come together to advocate for HB 3371.  Please pass House Bill 3371, a measure that will regulate and tax marijuana similar to alcohol and allow for the production of industrial hemp, onto the House Committee on Revenue.  The bill will generate new revenue to help support critical public services and free up limited law enforcement resources for more important priorities, like violent crime.

Marijuana prohibition, like alcohol prohibition, costs taxpayers too much money and enriches criminal organizations.  It is time to take a new approach on marijuana and replace prohibition with a sensible regulatory and taxation framework, especially since Washington recently legalized marijuana.  The Oregonian Editorial Board spoke for a majority of Oregonians when it urged the legislature to take the lead on this issue, stating that, “Our neighbors to the north will collect millions of dollars in new ‘sin’ taxes, with much of the money coming from Oregonians who’d be happy to keep their business—and taxes—in state if given the opportunity.”

Under HB 3371, the Oregon Liquor Control Commission (OLCC) will license and regulate the state’s marijuana industry, as the agency will be empowered with the regulatory and tax-collection authority it is currently provided under the state’s alcohol model.  This new industry will create much-needed jobs and generate millions of dollars in new revenue for the state, while also saving millions in law enforcement and court costs.  The bill allocates 40% of revenue for education, 20% for law enforcement, 20% for the General Fund and 20% for mental health and substance abuse services.

While empowering the OLCC to effectively regulate marijuana, HB 3371, also maintains strong, sensible regulations.  Usage of marijuana by minors under 21 years of age will still be illegal and the OLCC will be tasked with ensuring that retail outlets don’t provide to minors, just as the agency does with alcohol.  Additionally, marijuana may not be distributed within 1,000 feet from schools, public use is prohibited, DUI laws remain and employers are still free to implement Drug Free Workplace policies. The bill also provides the OLCC the power to implement new rules and regulations as needed.

House Bill 3371 will also allow Oregon farmers to produce industrial hemp, a low-potency form of marijuana with many uses, such as paper, fiber and textile products.  Ending hemp prohibition will provide our farmers with a sustainable, profitable new crop while creating jobs across multiple business sectors in Oregon.

It is inevitable that marijuana prohibition will be repealed in Oregon, likely sooner rather than later.  House Bill 3371 provides the Oregon Legislature the opportunity to lead on the issue and craft a law that makes sense for Oregonians—a measure that not only generates revenue, but also better utilizes our law enforcement resources.

Thank you for your thoughtful consideration of this bill,

Anthony Johnson

Executive Director, New Approach Oregon

Source: National Cannabis Coalitionmake a donation


About Author

Anthony Johnson is the director of New Approach Oregon, the PAC responsible for Measure 91, that ended cannabis prohibition for all Oregon adults in 2014. In addition to helping organize the International Cannabis Business Conference & the Oregon Medical Marijuana Business Conference, he also serves as a Board Member of the National Cannabis Coalition, working to legalize cannabis across the country and Show-Me Cannabis Regulation, an organization specifically working to end cannabis prohibition in Missouri. As President of the University of Missouri Law School ACLU Chapter, Anthony co-authored the measures that legalized medical cannabis possession and decriminalized personal possession for all adults within the city limits of Columbia, Missouri, in 2004. Following law school, Anthony practiced criminal defense for two years before working full time in the political field to help improve and protect civil liberties. You can follow Anthony on Twitter and also friend him on Facebook by following the links below as he posts mostly about civil liberties and politics with dashes of sports, music, movies and whatnot.


  1. IMHO, this is all still insanity, while I am glad for more liberal laws concerning what I have done for over 40 years anyway, smoke pot, it is still the same ole crap, cannabis should be no different than carrots, just another plant we use, however we should chose, no tax, no regulation, no jail time for growing plants.

  2. the new law would allow for 6 plants and 24 ounces personal use. not totally free but a whole lot closer.

  3. blue republic on

    which has a lot to do with why legalization is such a slog – people think the NRA is a powerful lobby but compared to
    Big Pharma and Monsanto? Not even close.

  4. blue republic on

    Well, not as good as giving marijuana the legal status of tomatoes or dandelions – but I suppose it’s positive news overall.

    Meanwhile, nearly all of the Oregon congressional delegation seem to be very comfortable with federal law that says all marijuana consumers are felons if they possess so much as a single round of ammunition. And all of them appear to be signing on to the current round of legislation who’s stated aim is to prevent all “prohibited persons” from acquiring or possessing guns.

    People like Blumenauer are saying on the one hand that simple marijuana use or possession should not be criminalized and on the other hand that any marijuana user attempting to exercise her/his 2nd Amendment rights *is* a criminal and it’s OK for the federal government to imprison them for ten years…

    Why are we in a situation where Oregon law and voter sentiment are so clearly in favor of decriminalized use/possession and medical marijuana – and when Oregon law has clearly come out in favor of medical marijuana users’ right to possess firearms yet our “representatives” are all lining up
    to enable the federal government to disarm and/or prosecute marijuana users as “dangerous felons”?

  5. Nathan Jimenez N.C.S. on

    the free that I have in this regard with what your saying is that quality will go down and people in this town don’t really know what good weed is lol

  6. Nathan Jimenez N.C.S. on

    It is my business and the business of all Oregonians what peoples reasons for using marijuana is. It is a matter of public health whether it be a matter of medicinal use or recreational use it still is a matter of public health and consumption, and as a matter of taxation and the collection of taxes it becomes a matter of we as citizens making the choice to properly act in the public good and to properly manage those tax dollars that come from marijuana. Now this matter of once again here you misunderstand there are no sanctions there are no legal petty issues because if decriminalized there are no criminal penalties or criminal issues involved because it is decriminalized there is NO criminal issues or sanctions if decriminalized. Now if it is legal sanctions and legality issue can apply. Now however once again you have mixed this up if it is legalized the government can put any sanctions on it as they want just like we have seen technically hemp is legal in this country but you have to get a premit from the government but because its legal and the government determines who or when permits are issued because they have legal control and it is legal they choose not to issue the permits just like they have done at the state level its legal its been legalized but they wont issue the permits. Now also with legalization they can put any sanctions they want but if decriminalized with regulation there would be a free market activity that is regulated by the government and there are just legal perimeters not legal control by the government.

  7. This is no different than alcohol, just needs to be taxed the crap out of it and keep the money here in Oregon instead of Columbia!

  8. Johnny oneye on

    Dealers will just lower street prices to beat the shops
    eventually the cartels will switch to something more lucrative
    What we have in the west is more of a grey market
    quasi – legal ,

  9. Johnny oneye on

    I got that 1
    When the gov stops treating cannabis users as criminals or pariahs
    They can still drink the toxic coolaid , as much as they want !

  10. Johnny oneye on

    Lots of people are giving up Drugs for cannabis
    Hard core opiate addictions like oxy-contin and its stepdad POPPY aka heroin
    Cannabidiol has been effective in curing some peoples addictions to much harder drugs!

  11. Nathan Jimenez N.C.S. on

    What part do you not understand that if it is legalized and a government control format like the liquor control board is put into place the government does have the right to control your behavior and your consumption and usage. They do have the right to call into question your motivations. Where if it was decriminalized there is no criminal penalty and as long as you live within the bounds of the law and the regulations it isn’t anyones business what you do with marijuana. Your motivations are in question the government under a legalization control format has the right to look and control demographic segmentation consumer behavior. With legalization that gives the government the right to control and question your marijuana consumption. Where with decriminalization the government doesn’t have that right it is decriminalized there is no criminal act to this regard as it pertains to marijuana consumption the government only acts as a overseerer in that it only insures that the law is being followed and people are acting within the regulations, and it collects the taxes and disperses it to its properly allocated areas. Fundamentally if you go with the booze control format it sets up control and a command economy like what the facist did if you look in the Websters and define facism as it is truly defined in the American vernacular you will see that it is a matter of a command economy as facism is concerned and if you legalize marijuana it will do this the government will control the process of growing and distribution of marijuana and prices there will be no market force that determines price or consumer behavior. This will raise up a facist state in that it will create as websters defines it as a government that stands for a “centralized autocratic government” and “severe economic and social regimentation” that would have that control under a liquor control format as currently purposed hence why they probably didn’t just amend the hemp law lol. You can see how legalization could fall into this facist definition as defined by the Websters the American vernacular.

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