Oregon Prosecutors Drop Marijuana Charges Before Legalization Goes Into Effect
Multnomah County, Oregon, has a population of about 750,000, with about 600,000 of us residing in Portland, the state’s largest city. Following our historic marijuana legalization victory with Measure 91, Multnomah County District Attorney announced that the county will dismiss fifty pending marijuana cases where the violations in question will be made legal.
In a statement released to the media, District Attorney Rod Underhill wrote, “Because it is clear that a significant majority of voters in Multnomah County support the legalization of marijuana in certain amounts, this office will dismiss the pending charges related to conduct which will otherwise become legal July 1, 2015. Any remaining charges not impacted by Ballot Measure 91 will be prosecuted.”
Measure 91 received 55.9% of the vote statewide, beating Washington’s I-502 (55.7%), Colorado’s Amendment 64 (55.3%), and Alaska’s Question 2 (52.1%) for the greatest measure of support for legalized marijuana markets ever recorded (Washington DC’s Initiative 71 did receive 69.4% of the vote, but does not legalize markets.) But in Multnomah County, the vote was an overwhelming 71% in favor.
According to the statement, the county will not prosecute “future charges for conduct related to marijuana possession and delivery of marijuana which will become lawful under Measure 91 absent exceptional circumstances.” That means right now, eight months prior to Measure 91 going into effect, possession of one ounce in public, eight ounces and four plants at home, a pound of THC-infused-edibles, and a six-pack (72 ounces) of THC-infused-liquids will not be prosecuted in Portland, Oregon, or the rest of Multnomah County.
Like Oregon, following 2012’s legalization votes in Colorado and Washington, prosecutors in some counties also dismissed pending marijuana cases before the legalization law went into effect. Since then, misdemeanor case filings for marijuana in Washington fell from over 5,500 in 2012 to just 120 in 2013. In Colorado, cases involving marijuana in Colorado dropped from averaging over 700 per month to just 133. And in the most recent FBI Uniform Crime Report, marijuana arrests nationwide dropped by over 56,000, a rate of 7.5% and marked the fourth straight annual decline.
Prosecutors in Portland’s two other metro area counties, Clackamas and Washington, are still considering whether to continue with low-level marijuana prosecutions. Clackamas County’s support for Measure 91 was 51.6% and Washington County’s was 55%. However, both counties are somewhat conservative suburban enclaves, and in Washington County, the sheriff and district attorney have been notably anti-marijuana in the past.