PORTLAND, Ore. (CN) – Smoking marijuana just for fun became legal in Oregon today – but it will be illegal to buy it until October.
Oregon voters approved Measure 91 in November, allowing possession of up to 1 oz. of dried marijuana flowers in public and up to 4 oz. at home. Oregonians may grow up to four marijuana plants per household for recreational use.
Medical marijuana has been legal in Oregon since 1998.
As of July 1, it is legal to possess, grow or give away marijuana, but not to buy it.
On Tuesday the Legislature approved a bill to allow sale of recreational marijuana in state-regulated dispensaries that already sell medical marijuana, beginning on Oct. 1. Another bill set a sales tax on recreational pot. The bills now go to the governor.
As of today, Oregonians 21 or older can legally spark up at home or at a friend’s house. Public smoking is not allowed, neither in bars, parks, on the street or in a car, even if it’s parked. Driving while high remains illegal.
Clatsop County District Attorney Joshua Marquis, a vocal opponent of Measure 91, criticized the Legislature for waiting until the last minute to decide how the drug will be sold.
“I think it’s shameful and cowardly,” Marquis said. “When this is being done literally in the last couple days, there is no real chance for public discussion.”
Peter Zuckerman, a spokesman for New Approach Oregon, which campaigned for Measure 91, said that legalizing recreational marijuana is just common sense.
“Thanks to Oregon voters, we’ve made history. We’ve become national leaders in drug reform,” Zuckerman said.
“Since this legalization passed in Oregon, huge strides have been made across the country. Legalization worked in Washington and Colorado, and the sensationalist claims of our opponents have not materialized. There will be more funding left over for schools, and the police will have more time to focus on violent crime.”
Historical or not, Marquis said, the law is nothing Oregonians should be proud of.
“Oregon is going to have by far and away the most lenient marijuana laws in the United States, far more so than Alaska, Colorado or Washington,” Marquis said. “The Legislature is falling all over themselves, changing things to make the law far more lenient than it originally was.”
Zuckerman said his side isn’t done yet.
“There is still a lot to do. Marijuana is still classified as a dangerous drug, as dangerous as heroin. There’s hardly any money for research. This is a great first step, but there’s still a lot to do.”
Marijuana was legal in the United States until the Harrison Act of 1914 outlawed it. The bill took effect Jan. 1, 1915. It and succeeding legislation classified marijuana as a narcotic, the same as heroin or opium. Eventually, this classification – which is legal, not medical – fueled efforts to reclassify, and eventually legalize marijuana.
Questions still surround the issue of employment. Employers can still legally require workers to pass drug tests. Marijuana is fat-soluble and traces of it can remain in the body for up to a month.
Possession of marijuana is still a federal crime, so if an employer receives federal funding, that could further complicate the issue.
Legal pot sales may not come to all of Oregon’s 36 counties. The Oregon House will vote on a bill to let local governments ban its sale in counties where voters “voted overwhelmingly against” legalization of recreational marijuana. If that bill passes, it would still be legal to possess recreational marijuana in counties that ban the sale of the plant.
Until lawmakers figure out the details of legal sales, the biggest opportunity to acquire the drug may be at a public event called Weed the People, scheduled for July 3.
Organized by the weekly newspaper The Portland Mercury and two marijuana businesses, The CO2 Company and Cannabis Concierge, the event neatly gets around the prohibition of sales. The $40 tickets promise up to 7 grams of free samples, to take home or smoke on the event’s private premises. Security guards will enforce the ban on alcohol, outside marijuana and people under 21.
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