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Public safety — SB 364 would require judges to consider reclassification of some marijuana crimes when a person seeks those crimes expunged



SALEM — As Oregon prepares for legal recreational marijuana, state lawmakers are looking at options to make it easier for people convicted of pot-related crimes to get their criminal records expunged.

A bill to help people convicted prior to a 2013 reclassification of marijuana offenses passed the state Senate with broad support last week. Three Republicans — Sen. Alan Olson (R-Canby), Sen. Chuck Thomsen (R-Hood River) and Sen. Doug Whitsett (R-Klamath Falls) — were the only senators to vote against the bill. It will next head to the House where it will be assigned to committee.

Senate Bill 364 would require judges to consider the 2013 reclassification of some marijuana crimes in Oregon when a person seeks to have those crimes expunged from his or her record. Currently, reclassification of many pot-related crimes to lower-level offenses only applies to offenses committed since that law took effect in July 2013.

For example, the law reduced possession of 4 ounces or more of marijuana from a Class B felony to a Class C felony.

The bill in the Legislature would also reinstate a provision that had been removed from state law, which would allow judges to reclassify convictions of Class B felony marijuana possession as misdemeanors.

Sen. Floyd Prozanski (D-Eugene) carried the bill and said his intention was to extend the benefits of the 2013 law to people with previous convictions.

Prozanski said people convicted of marijuana crimes want to take advantage of the reclassification, but “because of when they were convicted of it, the way the new language came out they wouldn’t be able to take advantage of it ... This was just a corrective measure.”

Separately, some district attorneys in Oregon decided last fall to dismiss pending cases for marijuana-related offenses that will no longer be illegal under Measure 91, although Yamhill County District Attorney Brad Berry said the county will not dismiss the offenses.

Voters passed the measure on Nov. 4 to legalize recreational marijuana for adults 21 and over starting July 1. Cannabis retailers will begin to sell marijuana products sometime in 2016, after the Oregon Liquor Control Commission begins accepting applications for business licenses in January 2016.

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