The landscape of drug offenses could soon be changing in the Pacific Northwest. On Nov. 6, Washington state voted on Initiative 502, which asked whether Washington should legalize marijuana use. Initiative 502 passed with 55 percent of the vote. Under the Initiative it becomes legal for people 21 years old and older to possess 1 ounce or less of marijuana. Furthermore, marijuana will become regulated by the state of Washington. Previously, possession of marijuana in any amount would lead to drug charges. Oregon voters narrowly defeated a similar proposal, known as Measure 80, which would have legalized and regulated marijuana in Oregon.
Although Oregon's medical marijuana laws leave some with the impression that the state is lax when it comes to drug law enforcement, people suspected of using, possessing or distributing illegal drugs are subject to heavy fines and significant jail time. As the laws stand, there are few exceptions made for people caught with these substances. But Oregon and other states are being pushed to consider adopting laws that offer immunity in cases where a person's health and safety are at risk.
Marijuana use is growing among men arrested in Portland, Oregon, and nine other major U.S. cities, but fewer are using cocaine, according to the annual report of a federal drug monitoring program. The 2011 Arrestee Drug Abuse Monitoring Annual Report, which tracks drug use among arrestees, also says that marijuana is the most commonly used illegal substance.