Criminalization of Marijuana Comes to an End in Oregon

By Executive Director David Rogers

On July 1, 2015, the possession and use of marijuana by adults over 21 years of age becomes legal in Oregon. With the passage of Measure 91 last November, the voters of Oregon sent a clear message that it is time to end the criminalization of marijuana.

Oregon has been at the forefront of marijuana reform in America. In 1973, Oregon was the first state to decriminalize possession of less than an ounce of marijuana; was one of the first states to legalize medical marijuana in 1998 and will now become one of the first states to legalize, regulate and tax marijuana for adult use. And the ACLU of Oregon was influential in bringing about each of these reforms because the War on Marijuana has been a dismal and costly failure.

The aggressive enforcement of marijuana possession laws needlessly ensnares hundreds of thousands of people into the criminal justice system and wastes billions of taxpayers’ dollars nationwide. We are at a tipping point in regard to public recognition that the war on drugs is a failed strategy.

Today, we were pleased to join with Oregon Congressman Earl Blumenauer, New Approach Oregon executive director Anthony Johnson, and parent advocate Leah Maurer, to discuss how Oregon is helping to lead the country in developing smarter and more just drug policies. And, legalization of marijuana in Oregon is, in fact, about justice.

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Landmark Freedom to Marry Victory!

ACLU of Oregon Applauds Decision that Brings Marriage Equality to Every State

June 26, 2015 - We applaud the landmark decision of the U.S. Supreme Court declaring same-sex couples have the freedom to marry and to receive equal respect for their marriages across America. Today’s decision by the high Court affirms the conclusion reached last year that Oregon’s marriage ban was unconstitutional.

“This is a momentous win for freedom, equality, inclusion, and above all, love. We can celebrate that America is a place where hearts and minds can change and we believe in liberty and justice for all,” said Jann Carson, associate director of the ACLU of Oregon.

In 2013, the ACLU of Oregon filed one of the two cases that successfully challenged Oregon’s marriage ban. On May 19, 2014, U.S. District Court Judge Michael McShane ruled that the state marriage ban violated the federal equal protection rights of same-sex couples wishing to marry.

“We are overjoyed with the Supreme Court’s decision today,” said Christine Tanner. She and her now wife, Lisa Chickadonz, were one of the four plaintiff couples, along with Basic Rights Oregon, who successfully challenged Oregon’s marriage ban with the help of the ACLU of Oregon. “The journey to reach this point has been a legal and emotional rollercoaster ride that has, for us, gone on for more than 25 years. To have the highest Court in our country end marriage discrimination once and for all is monumental. We are grateful that ride is finally over, not only for us but for families like ours across the nation.” 

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VICTORY! The Right to Film the Police Bill Passes the Oregon Legislature

The Oregon legislature has made it clear the public has the right to openly record police by passing HB 2704. It is now headed to the Governor’s desk.

June 16, 2015 - Victory - Right to Film the Police bill passesBystander video of police encounters can be very powerful, as recent events have shown. We can all agree it should not be a crime to pull out a phone, hold it up, and record an officer who is engaged in misconduct. However, under the current Oregon law, it is a crime to record a conversation without "specifically informing" the parties to the conversation. The problem is obvious — it may not always be safe or reasonable to provide a warning; for example, when the officer is engaged in misconduct or if the officer is dealing with a dangerous situation. When the Governor signs HB 2704 into law, the right to openly record police will be protected in Oregon.

Over 1,700 ACLU supporters took action on this issue by contacting their legislators in Salem. Together, our voices were heard! Thank you to everyone who took a stand for the right to film police in Oregon.

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Meet Our New Executive Director

David RogersApril 28, 2015 - We are thrilled to introduce David Rogers who will take the helm of the ACLU of Oregon on June 1, 2015. David has more than 25 years of social justice organizing, advocacy, and organizational development experience, and the last 15 years have been rooted in Oregon.

As the former Executive Director of Partnership for Safety and Justice (PSJ), he spent nearly a decade leading groundbreaking work in the areas of criminal justice and public safety. This past year he consulted with national foundations to identify promising approaches to dismantle the policies and impacts of mass incarceration and criminalization.

David is a person of vision, a proven advocate, and a well-respected leader. He has extensive relationships with Oregon advocacy organizations rooted in communities of color and groups working around gender justice, immigration, economic and environmental justice, and civic engagement.

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Thinking Outside the Box

Past criminal history shouldn’t limit job opportunitiesEmployment app

We strongly support the "Ban the Box" bill - HB 3025 , which helps to remove roadblocks to employment for formerly incarcerated individuals. This bill would prevent employers from asking prospective employees about past criminal histories on job applications until after a conditional offer of employment is made.

After serving their debt to society, many ex-offenders are denied the opportunity to work based solely on their conviction. This makes it difficult if not impossible for individuals with a criminal record to re-enter society successfully and be able to earn a living. With a criminal justice system that is dominated by racial disparities, people of color are disproportionately harmed by employers’ criminal background check procedures.

According to the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), more than 650,000 individuals are released from prison every year. One of the key elements they identified for successful re-entry into our communities is helping these individuals find and keep a job. If ex-offenders are to succeed as law-abiding, taxpaying citizens, they must have a chance at finding employment – particularly in this tough economic climate.

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A Trailblazing Bill for Women's Health

March 6, 2015 - As part of a diverse coalition of organizations committed to expanding access to women’s health care, we are thrilled to announce that Senate Bill 894 has been introduced in the Oregon Legislature.

This groundbreaking legislation is an important step in ensuring that more Oregonians – regardless of their income, type of insurance or location – have access to safe and affordable reproductive health care.

We believe every Oregon woman should have access to the full range of reproductive health care, starting before she ever becomes pregnant and going through childbirth. This basic right is a foundation of freedom and opportunity for women and their families.

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