Oregon Gov. Kate Brown is taking executive action to answer President Joe Biden’s call to pardon state-level offenses of simple cannabis possession.
The Democrat, who took office three months after Oregon voters approved adult-use cannabis legalization in the November 2014 election, announced Nov. 21 that she is granting a mass pardon that will impact roughly 45,000 people across the state and forgive more than $14,000 in associated fines.
Brown’s executive action comes six weeks after Biden urged all 50 governors to do the same while announcing his own three-step plan for cannabis reform.
Brown’s pardon will eliminate barriers to employment, housing and education for the thousands of Oregonians whose convictions are for possession of 1 ounce or less of cannabis, have no other charges attached, and where there were no victims associated with the conviction.
“No one deserves to be forever saddled with the impacts of a conviction for simple possession of marijuana—a crime that is no longer on the books in Oregon,” Brown said in a press release explaining the pardon.
“Oregonians should never face housing insecurity, employment barriers, and educational obstacles as a result of doing something that is now completely legal, and has been for years,” she said. “My pardon will remove these hardships. And while Oregonians use marijuana at similar rates, Black and Latina/o/x people have been arrested, prosecuted, and convicted at disproportionate rates.”
No one deserves to be saddled with the impacts of a simple possession of marijuana conviction—a crime that is no longer on the books in Oregon. I am pardoning these prior Oregon offenses, an act that will impact an estimated 45,000 individuals. https://t.co/mT9bcYzCcV— Governor Kate Brown (@OregonGovBrown) November 21, 2022
Brown’s pardon also comes a week after the U.S. House’s Civil Rights and Civil Liberties Subcommittee hosted a bipartisan congressional hearing calling on an end to federal cannabis prohibition. During that hearing, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., asked Birmingham, Ala., Mayor Randall Woodfin—a witness—about the difference between pardons and expungements.
While pardons are on the executive level, Woodfin stressed the need for expungements, which are more at the judicial level, because it offers a process that allows a person’s entire record to be concealed to the point where they’re no longer carrying around paper handcuffs, he said.
Following Brown’s pardon on Monday, the Oregon governor indicated that the Oregon Judicial Department will ensure that all court records associated with the pardoned offenses are sealed, “as required by law.”
“We are a state, and a nation, of second chances,” she said. “Today, I am taking steps to right the wrongs of a flawed, inequitable, and outdated criminal justice system in Oregon when it comes to personal marijuana possession. For the estimated 45,000 individuals who are receiving a pardon for prior state convictions of marijuana possession, this action will help relieve the collateral consequences arising from these convictions.”