Oregon is perhaps the Shangri-La of the "legalize marijuana" movement — but there's a potential storm on the horizon that could ruin its tranquility.
Not only was it the first state to decriminalize pot in 1973, years before its glamorous neighbor to the south, but its medical marijuana program has operated with few glitches since it began in 1998. Now, in one of the nation's most liberal states, medical marijuana is an issue in a top statewide election race.
"Because of a certain hippie ethos, some people think Northern California is too crowded, so they moved to Oregon," says Allen St. Pierre, executive director of the National Organization for the Repeal of Marijuana Laws, Norml. "The southern part of the state along the I-5 corridor is like California North. There is a big marijuana ethos out there."
Oregon has 55,807 registered users in its medical marijuana program — an astounding 1.4 percent of its population. Out-of-state residents are even eligible for medical marijuana licenses a year at a time. Thus far, the state has denied only 1,373 application.
Oregon vs. Other States
So why has Oregon's program managed to flourish with little or no controversy while those of Colorado, California, and Montana are under heavy fire?
St. Pierre says it's because Oregonians never pursued the “dispensary” model of distribution, where licensed users show up to buy the drug in any number of forms. This helps citizens avoid the possibility of law enforcement raids, which has been the case in other states.