Oregon Breaks New Ground in Marijuana Sales, Taxation, and Expunging Prior Convictions

Decriminalizing the possession and use of marijuana continues to move ahead in a number of states. And, of course, changes in the law of any state to legalize marijuana will continue to be at odds with federal law. Oregon is on the verge of launching its version of legalized sales of recreational marijuana. Medicinal sales of marijuana were already taking place.

Oregon will not limit the number of businesses that can sell marijuana. The regulatory situation in Oregon will be different than that in other states. For one thing, Oregon is not pursuing the idea that marijuana should be a big moneymaker for the state. Marijuana sales will be taxed, but at about half the rate imposed in Colorado and Washington. The apparent reason is that the state wants to keep the price low enough that legal sales can compete with the still illegal sales going on.

Oregon is also trying to break new ground in how courts deal with convictions for what used to be illegal sales of marijuana. A New York Times story reports on the case of Erika Walton, who was convicted fifteen years ago for the infraction (not even a misdemeanor) of possessing a small amount of marijuana. She paid a fine and served no jail time, but the item lingered on her record. She has always had to declare to potential employers that she had a drug conviction on her record.

She is now taking advantage of Oregon law to get that conviction sealed. After that, she will be able to legally tell prospective employers that she has no drug convictions or citations on her record. The Oregon law will be extended to cover even felony convictions related to marijuana. It is not clear how the federal government will react to this development.

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