Marijuana has been in the decriminalization process since 1973 with many states over the years passing laws to either authorize the use of marijuana or prohibit it. It is time to stop treating marijuana like a deadly drug, when science and public opinion agree that it is relatively safe for adult recreational and medical use. With recreational and medical marijuana on the verge of nationwide legalization, marijuana growers and dispensaries are popping up everywhere.

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The City Council lowered licensing and other fees for marijuana-related businesses in Portland on Wednesday, including providing financial incentives for small companies who are partly owned by or employ a percent of people previously convicted of marijuana-related crimes.

The changes were submitted by Commissioner Chloe Eudaly, who oversees the Office of Community and Civic Life, which manages the city’s management of marijuana-related businesses.

“Though Oregon voted to legalize cannabis in 2014, Cannabis prohibition still negatively impacts individuals and entire communities today,” Eudaly said in a press release. “While we know our work isn’t done, these changes are a small step toward reducing some of that impact. We’re also excited to offer extra assistance and flexibility for small business owners, and to bring down fees for all license types, particularly retailers.”

Among the changes approved by the council on Sept. 26:

• Reduce fees for all license types, including dropping retailer license fees from $4,975 to $3,500. In addition, Micro-Tier Producers and Processors and Retail Couriers will only pay a $200 application and $1,000 license fee. Reducing other license types, including Retailers, to just $500 for both the initial and the renewal application fees.

• Create a Social Equity Program for companies partly owed or staffed by people with previous marijuana-related convictions. Incentives include discounts on licensing fees and a credit for Bureau of Development Services’ Early Assistance and Preliminary Life Safety Meetings

• Offer a deferred payment plan for license fees and modify permitting requirements for processors and producers. Extract Processors must continue to demonstrate that all commercial building, mechanical, and tank permitting (if applicable) is final to get a license. However, all other Processors and Producers must now only demonstrate at least an issued (not final) applicable commercial building permit

According to the community and civic life office, there will be more changes to Portland’s cannabis regulations in the coming months and years. These changes will be informed by data collected after implementing the above changes, by an upcoming citywide market study of Portland’s cannabis industry, and by the restarting of Portland’s cannabis advisory body in early 2019.

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