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Oregon Activists Call On Counties To Drop Pot Charges Now

Russ Belville

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As High Times reported last week, prosecutors in Oregon’s most populous county, Multnomah, have decided to drop 50 pending marijuana cases following the passage of Measure 91. While the measure legalizing marijuana technically doesn’t go into effect until July 1, 2015, the county district attorney decided that the 71% support shown by Portlanders and other county residents was a clear mandate to stop arresting people for marijuana crimes that will disappear next summer.

Now Anthony Johnson, the chief petitioner of Measure 91, along with other campaign spokespeople from the ACLU, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, and former prosecutors and police officers, have called on the rest of Oregon’s remaining thirty-five counties to follow Multnomah’s lead and end the persecution of growers and consumers for their personal use of marijuana.

“Although Oregon voters passed Measure 91 with a 12-point margin, implementation of this better, smarter approach to marijuana policy will not be complete until the first half of 2016,” writes Johnson. “We don’t have to wait until then to start to mitigate the damage done by decades of criminalization, wasted law enforcement time and squandered taxpayer money.”

Indeed, another of the Portland metro-area counties has decided not to wait. On Tuesday, Clackamas County District Attorney John Foote has decided to drop 12 of 39 pending marijuana cases that fall within the personal use levels mandated by Measure 91. “Some of the remaining cases will have the level of punishment reduced, consistent with Measure 91,” Foote said in the statement. Clackamas County passed Measure 91 with just a 52% majority.

“A strong majority of Oregon voters have directed the state to stop treating marijuana as a crime and to better prioritize our limited law enforcement resources,” Johnson continues. “With so many lives and so much money at stake, waiting would be unreasonable and clearly damaging to Oregon’s communities. We should work quickly to limit the damage already caused by a feckless war against marijuana.”

Fourteen of Oregon’s thirty-six counties passed Measure 91, with half of those passing Measure 91 with majorities greater than the statewide 56 percent.  The remaining counties that voted “no” made up just 27% of all votes cast.  Thirteen of those “no counties” cast fewer than 10,000 votes total. In Josephine and Yamhill counties, the margins for “no” were 48 and 60 votes, respectively.

“We urge you to cease enforcement of marijuana laws that will no longer exist when provisions of Measure 91 take effect in July,” Johnson concludes, and we agree. Why bother citing and arresting people for the next eight months for something that will soon be legal anyway?

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