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New Oregon Law Aims To Prevent Underage Alcohol Poisoning

Andreas Solberg - andreassolberg

People under age of 21 in Oregon will have legal immunity if they report alcohol-related medical emergencies. It's one of several new laws taking effect with the New Year.

If you're a minor caught in possession of alcohol in Oregon you can get a $260 fine and lose your driver's license for up to a year. The new law removes those penalties when an underage drinker seeks medical help for themselves or a friend if they've had way too much to drink. A similar measure took effect in Washington in 2013.

Rob Reff, director of the Alcohol, Drug and Violence Prevention Center at Oregon State University, said the fear of getting punished can be a stumbling block in a time-sensitive scenario.

"That may cause them to pause or wait or to not call,” Reff said. “And when you're talking about alcohol poisoning, it's a life or death situation."

A national group called the Medical Amnesty Initiative says similar laws are in effect in 20 other states, including Washington.

The Oregon Legislature approved the measure with no opposition in February.

Other new laws that are effective on January 1 include a law that allows people convicted of low-level out-of-state marijuana offenses to qualify for a concealed handgun license in Oregon. Another law requires sellers of foreclosed homes to disclose whether the property was used as a meth lab.

And bettors at a racetrack in Portland will be able to place bets on horse races that took place long ago. Players will watch videos of the old races with information that identifies the date and location of the original race removed from the video.

Perhaps the most anticipated new Oregon law of 2015 won't take effect immediately. Recreational marijuana use by adults won't be legal until July 1.

The new year also means a higher minimum wage in Washington and Oregon. It's going up by 15 cents an hour in both states, to $9.47 and $9.25 respectively.

Copyright 2014 Northwest News Network

Chris Lehman covers the Oregon state capitol for JPR as part of the Northwest News Network, a group of 12 Northwest public radio organizations which collaborate on regional news coverage. Chris graduated from Temple University with a journalism degree in 1997. He began his career producing arts features for Red River Public Radio in Shreveport, Louisiana and has been a reporter/announcer for NPR station WNIJ in DeKalb, Illinois. Chris has also reported from overseas, filing stories from Iraq, Burkina Faso, El Salvador, Northern Ireland, Zimbabwe and Uganda.
Chris Lehman
Chris Lehman graduated from Temple University with a journalism degree in 1997. He landed his first job less than a month later, producing arts stories for Red River Public Radio in Shreveport, Louisiana. Three years later he headed north to DeKalb, Illinois, where he worked as a reporter and announcer for NPR–affiliate WNIJ–FM. In 2006 he headed west to become the Salem Correspondent for the Northwest News Network.