It has been seven months since Oregon voters approved Measure 91, allowing the state to join the ranks of Colorado and Washington in abolishing prohibition and taxing and regulating marijuana in a manner similar to alcohol. On Wednesday, the new laws will finally go into effect and the possession and cultivation of marijuana will be officially legal in the state of Oregon, but it could still be up to a year before residents can take advantage of retail sales.
As of July 1, anyone who is at least 21-years-of-age can legally possess up to an ounce of weed in public, while maintaining a supply of up to eight ounces at home — as the Portland Police Bureau recently displayed in a visual comparison of legal weed quantities to one of Portland’s famous Voodoo Doughnuts.
However, the implementation of the industry’s regulatory affairs has not yet been set into motion and the state will not begin accepting applications for cannabis retailers until early 2016, so Oregonians cannot expect to patronize recreational dispensaries until late 2016.
In an attempt to tighten the timeline towards recreational sales, a key legislative committee passed a measure last Thursday that could establish a temporary recreational marijuana market beginning later this year. Under this bill, hundreds of medical dispensaries across the state would be permitted to start selling limited amounts of recreational marijuana on October 1, 2015. The legislation still must pass in the state’s House and Senate, and be signed into law by Gov. Kate Brown, to take effect.
The Portland chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) has also planned an event to bypass the conflict of laws that allow cannabis use and possession but not sales. At midnight on July 1, the group is planning to host a free seed and flower giveaway on Portland’s Burnside Bridge.
“While it becomes legal to possess and cultivate cannabis, there is no legal place in Oregon to buy marijuana itself or cannabis seeds and starts,” a statement from the group explained. “Portland NORML will educate the public and our partners will give away thousands of seeds and hundreds of pounds of marijuana this year so Washington state and the black market do not benefit from our new marijuana legality.”
Under Oregon’s new marijuana laws, black market dealings are still considered a criminal offense. Those involved in the sale and distribution of recreational cannabis can still face some serious prison time under state law. There is legislation currently being discussed in the Oregon Legislature that would drop this offense down a class A misdemeanor, but for now, selling weed without permission from the state remains a felony offense.
But these are just the basics; there are a number of rules pertaining to the state’s new pot law that are important to understand, regardless of if you are a tourist or if you have lived in the state all of your life.
First, the good news. In Oregon, it will be perfectly acceptable to give away or share marijuana with others – just as long as no money changes hands – so try to find a friend to become your temporary supplier.
Of course, as of Wednesday, residents can also begin cultivating their own weed at home, but it could be tricky to locate a starter plant. The law comes with a relatively standard cultivation provision, giving residents permission to grow as many as four cannabis plants for personal use, but at least for now, the law does not allow anyone other than medical marijuana patients to purchase cannabis plants. Therefore, it might be advisable to make a connection with a medical marijuana patient willing to contribute to your cause, or watch for local weed share programs to pop up aimed at assisting recreational tokers in getting their feet wet in the wonderful world of cultivation. Trust us, if you look hard enough, you will find a plant.
Of course, there is another option. Even though the Oregon Liquor Control Commission does not suggest traveling into other legal states to make weed purchases, Portland authorities recently said that they had no plans to shake down people who enter the city with cannabis products smuggled in from Washington. Unfortunately, it is still a federal offense to cross state lines with marijuana, so you will need to exercise extreme caution if you choose to go this route.
Those on probation or parole should definitely check with the officer in charge of their case before indulging in legal weed. Depending on an individual’s terms of release, even being in possession of marijuana could be a violation.
Ultimately, there is an element of common sense that should accompany the newfound freedom of Measure 91, especially when it comes to where you can smoke weed and where it might cause some trouble. The rules are fairly simple: Marijuana can be used in abundance in any private residence, whether it be your house or someone you know, but public consumption of any kind is strictly prohibited. This means an unsavory encounter with the law could be in your future if the decision is made to smoke a joint in a public park, while using public transportation or anywhere else where you do not pay the bills. Seriously, if it is a public place, you can’t smoke weed there. Period. Failing to comply with this rule can result in a fine up to $1,000.
There is nothing is written in the language of the law, however, that prohibits individuals from smoking weed outside on their private property. But as we have learned from the trials and tribulations of other legal states, there is always someone who will complain about marijuana odors. And unfortunately, in these situations, public nuisance ordinances do apply, so there does exist the potential for legal friction if there is a complaint, but nothing that will result in anything too serious. All you can do is feel it out and hope for the best, or take the ultra-responsible approach and simply discuss the issue with your neighbor.
If you are a renter, don’t be surprised if your landlord incorporates a clause in the rental agreement that prohibits you from smoking and cultivating marijuana when it comes time to renew your lease. Regardless of the law, property owners have the right to impose and enforce these types of restrictions, just like they do when it comes to pets and the use of tobacco. You really have no legal recourse once this happens — either adhere to the rules or find a new place to live. But keep in mind there is no law against growing cannabis is a flowerpot on your balcony or back deck. Measure 91 allows outdoor grows as long as they remain out of public sight. Most landlords will only demand that you not cultivate inside due to concerns over property damage. As for your landlord’s no smoking rule, it might be best to just stick to edibles and vaporizers – it beats eviction.
And last but no least, it is illegal to operate a motor vehicle under the influence of marijuana. Some reports even suggest that people who ride bicycles high will be charged with driving under the influence of intoxicants (DUII.)
To learn more about the legal scope of marijuana use and cultivation in Oregon, click here.
Do you have plans to celebrate the beginning of recreational cannabis in Oregon on Wednesday? Tell us about it in the comments below.