Oregon Marijuana Laws: Why Is The Penalty Greater for Hash?
The main difference between hashish and marijuana is that the production of hashish requires the extra step of physical separation of the tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) rich trichomes from the rest of the cannabis plant. Marijuana production requires the drying of cannabis flowers, leaves, and stems. Once sufficiently desiccated, the marijuana can be used. Hashish production involves the physical separation of trichomes from the plant, which are then pressed into blocks. The active chemical (THC) is the same in both hashish and marijuana. The distinction between marijuana and hashish is that marijuana is a raw product, while hashish is a manufactured one.
Hashish is a cannabis product. Marijuana is a cannabis product. So what’s the big difference between hashish and marijuana, and why should I care?
The reason you should care about the difference between marijuana and hashish is that THE POLICE AND COURTS CARE ABOUT THE DIFFERENCE. Possession of less than one ounce of marijuana is a violation, whereas the possession of any amount of hashish is a class B felony. This means that if you get caught with less than an ounce of marijuana, worst case scenario is that you pay a fine up to $1000. But, if you get caught with any amount of hashish, worst case scenario is that you get fined $250,000 and you go to prison for 10 years.
In addition to the higher penalties for possession of hashish compared to the penalties for possession of marijuana, Oregon law also differentiates between hashish and marijuana when determining whether a crime is categorized as a “commercial drug offense.” A crime classified as a commercial drug offense typically involves specific quantities of a controlled substance and other factors (e.g. the offender was in possession of $300 or more in cash, the offender was in unlawful possession of a firearm, the offender was in possession of drug manufacturing paraphernalia, etc.). Assuming two of the additional factors are present, Oregon criminal law states that you need only be in possession of eight grams or more of a mixture or substance containing a detectable amount of hashish for the crime to be a commercial drug offense. However, if you were to change the drug from hashish to marijuana, you would need to possess one hundred ten grams or more of a mixture or substance containing a detectable amount of marijuana. Eight grams of hashish, 110 grams of marijuana.
Oregon criminal law also imposes higher penalties when one is caught delivering or manufacturing a “substantial quantity” of a controlled substance. Once again the law distinguishes between hashish and marijuana. Smaller quantities of hashish are required to bump up the crime to delivery or manufacturing of a substantial quantity of a controlled substance. For example, if you are caught delivering or manufacturing more than 150 grams of marijuana, you have been caught with a “substantial quantity” of a controlled substance and face significantly higher penalties if convicted. If you are caught delivering or manufacturing 100 grams ofhashish, you have been caught with a “substantial quantity” of a controlled substance and face significantly higher penalties if convicted. 100 grams of hashish, 150 grams of marijuana.
Why does Oregon criminal law treat hashish and marijuana so differently?
There seems to be no real clear answer why the substances are treated differently. There are in fact good arguments that hashish really is just marijuana. Oregon defines marijuana as:
"all parts of the plant Cannabis family Moraceae, whether growing or not; the resin extracted from any part of the plant; and every compound, manufacture, salt, derivative, mixture, or preparation of the plant or its resin…"
Since hashish could be considered a compound, manufacture, derivative or preparation of the plant or its resin, hashish appears to fall squarely in Oregon’s definition of marijuana. Add to this that Oregon criminal law has no definition of hashish, and the case for including hashish within the definition of marijuana becomes even stronger (see http://www.oregonscriminaldefenselawyers.com/blog/bid/115625/Hashing-Out-Oregon-Marijuana-Laws-Under-the-OMMA).
Although the legal definition of marijuana makes no distinction between marijuana and hashish, Oregon criminal law does reference each substance independently from one another and thus, are treated differently for the purposes mentioned above.
With the active chemical compound the same in both hashish and marijuana, we are left to speculate why the criminal penalties for possession of hashish are so much harsher. One reason for the different treatment is that it is widely assumed that hashish is a much more potent than marijuana. This is not always the case. Hashish can contain THC levels from almost none, up to 70%. By contrast, marijuana THC content typically varies from 3% to 22%. The reality is that the THC content of the hashish that reached the United States in the 1990s averaged about only 5%. Numbers aside, the perception and potential for hashish to be more potent than marijuana is real. This perception and potential for higher potency may be one reason there are harsher penalties for possession of hashish.
Another reason for the different treatment of hashish and marijuana may be to deter the hashish market from growing. Hashish is sourced mainly from the Middle East, North Africa, Pakistan, and Afghanistan. The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) has noted that there is a limited market for hashish in the United States. With possession of any amount of hashish being a class B felony, the harsh penalty may have been imposed to discourage hashish demand and consequently limit the illegal importation of hashish.
The harsher penalties for hashish possession may also be due to how easily hashish can be contaminated with other harmful substances. The most common type of hashish in the UK is “soap bar.” It is also often the most polluted type of hashish. Soap bars are often made of low grade hashish and may contain: turpentine, ketamine, boot polish, aspirin, animal feces, barbiturates, glues and dyes plus carcinogenic solvents such as Toluene and Benzene. There does not seem to be any evidence that soap bars are a problem in Oregon, but if you assume that the Oregon legislature thinks they could be a problem, and does not want you to smoke
marijuana, and you assume that it really really does not want you to smoke boot polish-turpentine-animal feces contaminated hashish, then harsher penalties for possession of hashish might make sense.
The bottom line is that this is all just speculation. Oregon may treat possession of hashish much more severely than possession of marijuana for all of the reasons above, some of the reasons above, or none of them. Regardless of the reason, the message the Oregon legislature seems to be sending is: don’t mess around with hashish.