Tag: Measure 91

Automatically Release Cannabis Prisoners and Expunge Criminal Records

Ending cannabis prohibition is a transformational policy that ends thousands upon thousands of arrests while generating millions upon millions of dollars. Lives are drastically improved as nonviolent, law-abiding citizens no longer have their educational, employment, and housing opportunities stripped from them. And more people have access to a safe medicine that can help alleviate their condition, and for some, could even be life-saving. But more still needs to be done after legalizing cannabis, starting with broader criminal justice implications. First and foremost, everyone in prison for cannabis should be released from prison and all criminal records shoulds be expunged automatically. This shouldn’t be controversial, but it’s not easy to accomplish.

Following the passage of Oregon Measure 91 in 2014, one of my favorite stories that emerged was of a man who had tears of joy after he was able to expunge a felony that had followed him his entire life. While I am still extremely happy that Oregonians can remove criminal convictions that they previously couldn’t, we didn’t go far enough. Clearing your criminal history shouldn’t depend upon the ability to pay an attorney, filing fees, and jumping through hurdles. Cannabis is legal now, signifying that it was a mistake to criminalize it in the first place. People shouldn’t have their lives hindered forever because the law was an error. They are grappling with this very issue in Virginia, one of the most recent states to end prohibition, as NBC Channel 12 reported:

Marijuana will soon be legal in the commonwealth starting July 1, but that does not mean those jailed for marijuana-related offenses will get out right away.

While the new legislation takes effect July 1, people will not have marijuana-related charges cleared from their records right off the bat, especially if they are more serious.

“I’m pretty sure that the expungement of past convictions is going to take a while to put into effect,” Albemarle County Commonwealth’s Attorney Jim Hingeley said.

Noah Strike, a columnist for the The Cavalier Daily, rightly took the state to task:

The General Assembly’s move to legalize recreational marijuana and create a regulated market for it in the Commonwealth is undeniably a good thing. Governor Northam’s commitment to social justice in legalization is exactly what Virginia needs in our contemporary period. But it is impossible to legalize marijuana under the banner of social justice without accounting for and actively addressing the historical harm American drug policies have caused. It is impossible to fulfill our goal of racial justice without freeing those incarcerated for past marijuana offenses.

Legalizing personal possession and regulating cannabis commerce is only a part of the battle to implementing sensible and sound legalization policies. There’s a lot of work to be done after cannabis is legal. Let’s start with ending the ridiculous notion that people should have job and housing opportunities denied because the state made the mistake of criminalizing cannabis in the first place.

“Uprooting the Drug War” Launched by the Drug Policy Alliance Today

The Drug War negatively impacts all of us, even if you have never used drugs. Even if you only utilize cannabis in a legal state and think that the War on Drugs is over for you, the failed policy is still costing you as your medical, employment, and parental rights can still be dictated by a failed, outdated policy. Half of all states require that doctors report suspected drug use by parents to child welfare authorities, even if there isn’t any harm to the child. Many people are forced to forego medical cannabis by some doctors and people can lose their housing and employment opportunities, pushing people into poverty and potentially a life of crime to survive.

When entire communities are decimated, we all suffer. If you care about the overexpansion of the government’s power over our lives or wasteful spending, the Drug War aint’ for you. When the government wages a war on nonviolent citizens, the powers gained infiltrate other areas of our lives and the money set on fire trying to make America “drug free” is money that we’ll never get back. Resources that could be allocated to save lives and lift people out of poverty are instead used to build prisons and lock generations in a vicious cycle. The prison industrial complex only grows stronger with incentives to lobby for more draconian laws that are ineffective and harmful.

The Drug Policy Alliance is on the forefront of ending the Drug War. They helped form the foundation for both the Measure 91 cannabis legalization and Measure 110 drug decriminalization campaigns in Oregon. Today, they launched a new project, “Uprooting the Drug War” detailing just how pervasive the War on Drugs is in our lives:

The war on drugs has impacted nearly every aspect of our lives. Our government criminalizes people who use drugs instead of providing education and addiction health services, including treatment. Rather than invest in communities, public officials invest in surveillance, policing, and punishment tactics that disproportionately target and impact people of color, low-income people, and non-citizens. Though these tactics have fueled mass incarceration, that is not their only impact.

There are serious consequences for drug use in nearly every sector of civil life — education, employment, housing, child welfare, immigration, and public benefits. Punishment is not limited to the criminal legal system. Instead, it is the default reaction to drug use wherever it shows up, impacting our lives in profound but largely unrecognized ways. We must shine a spotlight on the insidious ways the drug war has spread into all our systems.

Uprooting the Drug War details how housing, public benefits, child welfare, immigration, education, and employment are all impacted by a failed and harmful policy with racist and classist consequences. The issues go above and beyond just mass incarceration, which would be bad enough. The New Jim Crow targets people of color and anyone without the means to adequately defend themselves. While the wealthy can often escape serious consequences, the working class and those suffering through poverty aren’t that fortunate. Check out Uprooting the Drug War and spread the word. Step by step, state by state, let’s end this failed and harmful policy.

Clackamas County, Oregon, Prosecutors Decriminalize Drugs Today

Following the passage of Oregon Measure 91 in 2014, several county prosecutors effectively legalized cannabis months before the landmark legalization law went into effect. Now, we are starting to see the same treatment of all drugs following the passage of Measure 110 with over 58% of the vote on November 3rd. The Clackamas County District Attorney’s Office sent out an email to all police chiefs in their jurisdiction that their office will stop prosecuting minor drug possession cases effective today, on November 23rd, a few months before the law officially goes into effect on February 1, 2021.

The email from Clackamas County Chief Deputy District Attorney Chris Owen to law enforcement heads within the county:

Dear Chiefs:

As you are aware, Oregon voters passed Measure 110, which decriminalizes, among other things, possession of up to 1 gram of heroin, 2 grams of methamphetamine and cocaine, 12 grams of psilocybin, 40 user units of LSD 40 pills/capsules containing synthetic opiates.

The measure takes effect on February 1, 2021. At that time, persons found to be in possession of these controlled substances will be referred to local municipal or justice courts and subject to the newly created Class E infraction, which carries a maximum $100 fine. This fee will be waived if the offender provides proof of participation in a substance abuse assessment. There is no requirement that the person engage in treatment.

As the voting public has overwhelmingly passed this measure, effective 11/23/20 the Clackamas County District Attorney’s Office will stop charging new Unlawful Possession of Controlled Substance cases that will otherwise be decriminalized on February 1. It is our belief that having officers investigate and submit cases for a prosecution in the weeks leading up to February 1, which will not lead to any sanction or court supervised treatment, is not the most effective use of criminal justice resources.

While we fundamentally disagree with this measure, ceasing to prosecute these matters prior to February 1 is consistent with the will of the voters, which we must respect.

Investigations where a juvenile is found to possess controlled substances in amounts that will be decriminalized should still be referred to the Juvenile Department so the juvenile can have the opportunity for supervised treatment. There is a juvenile workgroup convening who will eventually offer guidance about what to do with juvenile referrals after February 1.

Until February 1, misdemeanor PCS is still unlawful. The decision of our office is not intended not divest local law enforcement officers the ability to conduct lawful investigations, searches and arrests. 

Good communication about this significant change is paramount. If you have any questions or need clarification about this decision, I encourage you or anyone in your agencies to contact me directly. We look forward to our presentation on December 15th where we will discuss additional specifics of M110 and its search and seizure implications.

Chris Owen

Chief Deputy District Attorney

Clackamas County DA’s Office

The Oregon cannabis community can be proud of leading the fight against the failed and harmful Drug War. As the first state to decriminalize cannabis back in 1973 and among the early states of legalizing medical and adult use cannabis (in 1998 and 2014, respectively), Oregonians are true pioneers, putting a sledgehammer to the War on Drugs, by decriminalizing drugs in 2020.

Measure 110 was made possible by cannabis law reforms passing first and that more than $100 million dollars have become available to fund drug treatment and recovery services from larger-than-expected cannabis tax revenue. When you support local dispensaries like Pendleton’s Kind Leaf, you are helping fund a variety of social programs, including more drug treatment beds, hiring more recovery mentors, housing programs, and job training services.

It’s great to see Clackamas County prosecutors ending unnecessary prosecutions early. Hopefully, other county district attorneys will follow suit. Step by step, we are saying “No More Drug War” and it’s so great to see Oregon leading the way.