Today, recreational cannabis is now legal in Oregon under Measure 91. Here at Smoke Reports, we want to take the time and pay homage to the Beaver State for being one of the pioneers leading cannabis out of the shadows of prohibition. To the people of Oregon who have fought so hard along the road to cannabis legalization, you have the thanks of the entire Smoke Reports team. Let’s take a look at the individuals, organizations, and events that for decades have paved the way for reasonable cannabis policies.

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Overview of Cannabis Legality in Oregon

In 1973, Oregon became the first state in America to decriminalize small amounts of cannabis. Over the last forty-two years, Oregonians have rallied and petitioned to give cannabis a better public image. It has not been an easy road. In 1986, a ballot initiative to legalize cannabis did not find nearly enough support from Oregon voters. Later in 1997, the Oregon Legislature attempted to re-criminalize cannabis, but voters shot down the attempt. In 1998, Oregon passed Measure 67, the Oregon Medical Marijuana Act, giving patients with serious medical issues the right to grow and use cannabis for relief. Since the late 1990s, Oregon has been consistently attempting to reduce criminal penalties, and provide more support for patients who are unable to grow sufficient amounts of their own cannabis. In June of 2010, the Oregon Board of Pharmacy reclassified cannabis from a Schedule I drug to a Schedule II drug, maintaining that cannabis can provide medical benefits. Federal law still classifies cannabis as a Schedule I drug, and Oregon’s reclassification does not supersede federal mandates, however, Oregon is the first state to ever reclassify cannabis as having medical potential.

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Oregon State Capitol: Hub of National Cannabis Reformation

Cannabis Flower Production in Oregon

In the late 1980s, as the DEA was heavily targeting cannabis production in California, there was a major boom in Oregon cannabis cultivation, both indoor and outdoor. Since that time, Oregon has remained one of the top ten cannabis-producing states of both indoor and outdoor cannabis. It has been recently estimated that Oregon may have up to 40,000 individuals cultivating cannabis for personal use, and that there are over 120 sites producing cannabis for over ten people. These 120 state-approved sites are each capable of producing hundreds of pounds of cannabis annually.

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One of Many Oregon Cannabis Farm

The Many People Behind the Oregon Cannabis Movement

In 1973, Oregon Governor Tom McCall signed America’s first legislation that decriminalized small amounts of cannabis:

“…the solution is not to toss youthful offenders into jail or prisons. We long ago recognized alcoholism to be a disease, and abandoned efforts to treat alcoholics by simply locking them up.” – Gov. Tom McCall, 1973

Gov. Tom McCall

Gov. Tom McCall

During the 1990s, when attempts were being made to re-criminlize cannabis, political action committees like Pay for Schools by Regulating Cannabis were instrumental in blocking this backward legislation. Other key players who spent loads of personal time and money over the decades are George Soros (business magnate), Peter Lewis (chairman of Progressive Insurance), and John Sperling (founder of the Apollo Group, University of Phoenix). These three individuals have contributed funds throughout cannabis legalization, and Sperling himself attributes a successful win over cancer to his use of cannabis.

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Top to Bottom: Soros, Lewis, Sperling

Measure 67 was signed in 1998 by Governor Ted Kulongoski, creating a medical cannabis program to harbor sick cannabis patients. Currently, the Oregon medical cannabis program hosts over 70,000 patients, and 35,000 licensed caregivers.

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Gov. Ted Kulongoski

In the mid-2000s, Doug Beckman, a circuit judge from Multnomah County, said, “I think there’s a broader social acceptance for users of [cannabis]. And gradually there’s increasing public pressure, I think, to decriminalize [cannabis].” Multnomah County currently hosts the most medical cannabis patients, with over 12,300 residing there.

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Measure 91: Legalizing Cannabis for Recreational Purposes in 2015

Measure 91 (full text here) goes into effect today, July 1st, 2015. The bill was propelled by Earl Blumenaur (D – OR. 3rd congressional district) and Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR.), a former member of the Oregon House of Representatives. Governor Kate Brown signed Measure 91 into effect to the relief of many, who watched the former governor, John Kitzhaber, continually impede the legalization of cannabis. Kitzhaber stepped down in February of 2015 due to scandals, in perfect time to allow Governor Brown the opportunity to sign Measure 91. The Oregon Legislature is currently reviewing Senate Bill 460, which if signed by Gov. Brown, could allow for retail cannabis locations to open up by October of this year. Measure 91 makes adult possession (age 21+) legal, and individual residences may support up to four plants for personal cultivation until the retail cannabis industry is up and running.

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Gov. Kate Brown

As always, NORML (National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws) has been a major proponent behind cannabis legalization across the country. The Oregon chapter of NORML deserves a big pat on the back for providing the people with organizational tools and education to continue abolishing outdated cannabis regulations.

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