Local and federal lawmakers working to lift cannabis restrictions, remove convictions

PORTLAND, Ore. — While recreational pot has been legal in Oregon for more than three years now, lawmakers at the state and federal level are still working to help businesses dealing with strict laws and people still dealing with old misdemeanor marijuana convictions.

Adrian Wayman, found and owner of Green Box, a cannabis delivery business, knows first-hand what businesses and people are going through.

Ten years ago Wayman was arrested for possession of marijuana, now he is selling the product that got him in trouble.

“When I really realized it, I was getting fingerprinted for my license at this location,” said Wayman, standing in his business. “The last time I got finger printed, I was being arrested.”

Now Warman is one of just a handful of black cannabis business owners in Portland. He just received a $30,000 grant from the NuLeaf Project, which awards grants to cannabis businesses owned by people of color.

According to the American Civil Liberties Union, black people are arrested on marijuana charges more than white people, despite using it at about the same rates.

“It’s sad, because the black and brown people are the ones going to jail for it at crazy insane rates, higher than others,” Wayman said. “Sadly, we’re not the ones owning the businesses that are getting revenue from it today.”

Even though cannabis is legal in Oregon, many people are still dealing with effects from their past convictions. Some have trouble getting new jobs or new apartments because the conviction is still on their record.

Currently, the engagement process can be complicated and expensive, about $1,100. State Senator Lew Frederick is sponsoring a new bill, SB 420, which would direct the Oregon Department of Justice to identify and expunge misdemeanor convictions.

Nkenge Harmon Johnson, president of the Urban League of Portland, says expunging pot convictions is her group’s number one priority.

Federal lawmakers are also working on legislation to lift restrictions on marijuana. Rep. Earl Blumenauer told KATU News they could pass a resolution this year that would allow cannabis business owners to open bank accounts.

Wayman says that would be huge for his industry.

“It’s a pain to drive all the way down to Salem with a wad full of cash, literally to pay our taxes. I should be able to click a button online and be done with it,” he said.

Blumenauer is also working on legislation that would regulate marijuana like alcohol and project cannabis research.

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