You know that the cannabis community, and our nation, has made great strides against Reefer Madness prohibition when the discussion changes from “whether to legalize” to “how to legalize.” I may prefer some proposals over others, but I tend to end up supporting any measure that improves upon the status quo and will keep more nonviolent people who aren’t hurting anyone else, from being arrested and jailed. In 2014, Oregon made great strides when it was the third state to vote to legalize, but the law wasn’t perfect. We made more progress in 2015 by further reducing criminal penalties and adding expungement provisions through legislation. One of the highlights of my activism career was reading about a man with “tears of joy” because he could finally clear his record of an old marijuana felony conviction. Still, there’s more work to be done in Oregon, and House Bill 3112, known as the Cannabis Equity Act, is an attempt at taking another great step forward in righting the wrongs of the racist and failed Drug War.
To each their own, but my personal favorite provision of the Cannabis Equity Act is the automatic expungement of old cannabis offenses. Our criminal justice system has too many injustices, and one of its major failings is the disparate treatment people get based upon how much money they have. Of course, people understand that having money allows you to hire top lawyers, or even a Dream Team of attorneys, but a lack of funds can detrimentally impact your criminal justice proceedings long after your trial. One example of that is the ability to clear your criminal record. As I previously mentioned, I loved reading about the man who had tears of joy after his expungement. However, too many don’t have the money to hire an attorney or pay the required court fees needed to expunge their records. There are great people and organizations that assist people with expungement, but you have to know about them and the events they host and be able to get there. Clearing your record of an offense shouldn’t depend upon how much money you have; House Bill 3112 fixes that injustice.
The Cannabis Equity Act has several other great provisions, such as reducing the fees on Oregon Medical Marijuana Program (OMMP) patient cards and setting aside funds to invest in communities disproportionately impacted by over-policing and cannabis criminalization. Oregon has made great progress combatting Reefer Madness prohibition and the greater Drug War in recent years and HB 3112 is just another great step in the right direction. Oregonians, please contact the House Judiciary Committee and your own legislators and let them know that you support House Bill 3112 because it will improve the lives of thousands of people wrongly harmed by outdated marijuana laws. A sincere thanks to the Cannabis Equity PAC for working hard to pass this important legislation.