In Oregon, legalization includes amnesty for past pot crimes

By Oscar Pascual |

Oregon may not be the first state to legalize cannabis, although California’s northern neighbor is blazing trails when it comes to marijuana law reform.

While the state legalized marijuana for recreational use earlier this year, Oregon also passed two new laws to help people with previous marijuana-related offenses, the New York Times reports.

One such law states that courts must use current law standards — under which the possession, cultivation, and selling of marijuana is completely legal — when clearing records of past offenses. The other law provides fast record-clearing for people under the age of 21 at the time of the past conviction.

“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 M. Roberts, a law professor at American University in Washington, D.C., to the Times.

Yet another state law, which isn’t even limited to just marijuana-related offenses, allows anyone with a low-level felony, misdemeanor, or nontraffic violation to clear their records if 10 years have passed without another conviction.

The law was a boon for resident Erika Walton, who was charged for marijuana possession 15 years ago when she handed a bong to someone who turned out to be a police officer. Walton has had to divulge this information in every job application since, until recently.

“It’s taken away a lot of my life,” Walton told the Times as she inked out her fingerprints, which Oregon requires from applicants. “That’s why this means so much to me today.”

Legal experts say Oregon has gone beyond their expectations of pot law reform, which could serve as a model for future states that vote in support of legalizing marijuana.

“In criminal law reform on marijuana, Oregon has gone further than anyone else,” said Leland R. Berger, who specializes in marijuana law and practices in Portland, to the Times.

Photo credit: Flickr.com/Oregondot