Oregon has been at the forefront of a movement to liberalize drug laws. Since 2015, cannabis has been legal for both medical and recreational uses in Oregon. Many states have made similar moves in recent years, but Oregon went even further last year when voters approved the decriminalization of possession of small amounts of most drugs.
All this change has been good for many people who might otherwise have seen their lives turned upside-down by drug charges, but it has also led to a lot of uncertainty. Perhaps the biggest problem is that cannabis remains illegal under federal law. In fact, federal law still categorizes cannabis as a Schedule I drug, meaning that federal law considers it as dangerous as heroin, cocaine and other highly addictive illegal drugs.
To put this in context, consider that many highly addictive and dangerous opioid pain medications are categorized as Schedule II drugs because the federal government recognizes that they have medicinal value. This means that federal law regulates marijuana more seriously than fentanyl and some other drugs that are currently killing people in a wave of overdoses.
New schedule for marijuana?
Recently, President Biden announced that he would pardon Americans who had been convicted of simple possession charges in marijuana cases. Many people welcomed the news, saying that it would go a long way toward redressing past wrongs.
Although it did not get as much attention in the news media, at the same time that he was announcing the pardons, President Biden also announced that he was instructing the Department of Justice to begin the work of reclassifying cannabis, perhaps moving it out of Schedule I.
If this comes to pass, it could make a huge difference.
Defending against drug charges
With the law changing rapidly, it’s easy for people to get confused. In Oregon, many have decriminalized the possession of small amounts of drugs, but it’s still illegal under state law to carry any more than a specified small amount. It’s all too easy to get on the wrong side of that measurement. And for the time being, federal laws are as strict as ever.
Considering this background, it’s important for people accused of drug crimes to understand how the law may apply to the facts of their case. A criminal defense lawyer who is knowledgeable about drug crime defense can help them understand their options.