Sentencing/Post Conviction

Oregon to give second chance to residents with marijuana convictions

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As Oregon begins distributing legal marijuana next month, the state is also taking steps to give a second chance to residents convicted of marijuana-related offenses under the old criminal statutes.

The New York Times reported Sunday that the state is looking to expand its current record-expungement statute in light of last year’s vote to legalize marijuana. Currently, a resident with a prior marijuana conviction on his or her record who has stayed out of trouble for at least 10 years can apply to have the conviction expunged, provided that it was a low-level felony, misdemeanor or violation. According to the Times, starting next year, more serious marijuana-related offenses, including manufacturing, will be eligible for expungement. The state voted to legalize marijuana last November, and legal sales of recreational marijuana will begin on October 1.

“Oregon is one of the first states to really grapple with the issue of what do you do with a record of something that used to be a crime and no longer is,” said Jenny Roberts, a professor of criminal law at American University Law School, to the New York Times. Leland Berger, a Portland lawyer who specializes in marijuana law, agreed and told the Times that “in criminal law reform on marijuana, Oregon has gone further than anyone else.”

Indeed, when it comes to marijuana, Oregon’s regulatory scheme is far less imposing than the ones set up in Colorado or Washington. The Times noted that Oregon’s marijuana tax is much lower than neighbor Washington’s; Oregon has a 17 percent tax with a 3 percent optional add-on while Washington has a 37 percent tax. The newspaper also pointed out that Oregon, unlike Washington, will not impose a limit to the number of licenses issued to businesses looking to sell marijuana. Oregon also declined to follow the leads of Washington and Colorado, which require police officers to impose blood tests on drivers suspected of driving while impaired by marijuana. Instead, Oregon cops will have wide latitude in determining whether someone is too stoned to drive.

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