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Oregon has a long and complex history with cannabis, dating back to the early 20th century when the plant was first criminalized in the state. From its use by Native Americans to its legalization for both medical and recreational use, the history of cannabis in Oregon reflects the broader national trends surrounding the plant.

Early Use of Cannabis in Oregon

Cannabis has been used for medicinal and spiritual purposes by Native American tribes in Oregon for centuries. The plant was used in religious ceremonies to induce visions and connect with spiritual forces. It was also used to treat a variety of ailments, including pain, inflammation, and anxiety.

Criminalization of Cannabis

The use of cannabis became increasingly stigmatized in the early 20th century, and in 1923, Oregon became one of the first states to criminalize the possession and sale of marijuana. The state’s first cannabis law prohibited the possession, sale, and use of marijuana, and set a penalty of up to ten years in prison for violations.

In the decades that followed, Oregon’s cannabis laws became increasingly strict. In 1935, the state passed a new law that made possession of any amount of marijuana a felony, with a penalty of up to ten years in prison. This law remained in place for several decades, and led to the imprisonment of thousands of Oregonians for non-violent drug offenses.

Medical Marijuana Legalization

In 1998, Oregon voters approved Measure 67, which legalized medical marijuana in the state. This allowed patients with certain medical conditions to use and possess a limited amount of marijuana with a doctor’s recommendation. The law also established a system for regulating the cultivation, distribution, and sale of medical marijuana.

Since the passage of Measure 67, the medical marijuana industry in Oregon has grown significantly. As of 2021, there were over 300 licensed dispensaries and over 100,000 registered patients in the state.

Recreational Marijuana Legalization

In 2014, Oregon voters approved Measure 91, which legalized the possession and use of recreational marijuana for adults aged 21 and over. The law also established a system for regulating the cultivation, distribution, and sale of recreational marijuana.

Under the new law, adults can possess up to one ounce of marijuana and cultivate up to four plants for personal use. The law also includes provisions for expunging certain marijuana-related criminal records and providing social equity programs to help individuals who have been disproportionately impacted by the war on drugs.

Since the legalization of recreational marijuana, the industry has grown significantly in Oregon. As of 2021, there were over 600 licensed cannabis businesses in the state, including growers, processors, and retailers.


The history of cannabis in Oregon is a complex one, marked by periods of stigma, prohibition, and legalization. While the use of cannabis has been stigmatized in the past, it is now widely accepted as a legitimate form of medicine and recreation. As the legal landscape continues to evolve, it is important to remember the plant’s cultural significance and the role it has played in Oregon’s history.

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