Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber (D) Monday signed into law two measures that will reduce the punishments for certain marijuana-related offenses. The changes go into effect immediately.The first, Senate Bill 40, lowers the penalties for possession of more than an ounce of pot. Under the old laws, possession of more than four ounces was a Class B felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison. Now, it becomes a Class B felony, punishable by up to five years in prison. Similarly, possession of between one and four ounces was a Class B felony; now, it becomes a Class B misdemeanor punishable by up to six months.
SB 40 also reduces the penalties for marijuana cultivation. Unlawful manufacture was a Class A felony punishable by up to 20 years in prison; now, it becomes a Class B felony dropping the maximum sentence by half.
Possession of less than an ounce of pot is decriminalized in Oregon, but people cited for possession also faced a mandatory suspension of driving privileges unless there were "compelling circumstances" not do. Senate Bill 82 eliminates that suspension. It does not, however, lift the mandatory suspension of driving privileges for people caught with more than an ounce.
Oregon is likely to be one of the next states to attempt to legalize marijuana outright. An underfunded initiative there in 2012 got 47% of the vote, and efforts to get a new initiative (or initiatives) on the ballot for 2014 have already been announced.