Oregon lawmakers passed several bills on Tuesday allowing retail sales regulated by the Liquor Control Commission to start in late 2016 as the state prepared for its entry into the world of legal marijuana, the Oregonian reports. Legalization took effect Wednesday, and pot enthusiasts weren't waiting until the stores opened to celebrate: A large crowd got together early Wednesday morning near a landmark sign in Portland to share their stashes.
From CBS affiliate KOIN:
On July 1, Oregon joined Colorado, Washington, Washington D.C. and Alaska in legalizing recreational marijuana. Those over the age of 21 can now legally carry one ounce of pot, and can possess up to 8 ounces and 4 plants at home.
Pot advocates gathered at the Burnside Bridge early Wednesday morning to hand out weed and marijuana seeds in celebration of the new law. However, lighting up in public is still unlawful, and police said they expected many to hit the streets once the clock struck midnight.
"We anticipate there are going to be a lot of people that will immediately go out and start smoking, maybe in public areas," Portland Police Sgt. Pete Simpson told KOIN 6 News. "We really encourage people to use at private locations, in their homes, and be respectful of the fact that there are a lot of people who don't want to smell it."
With no structure yet in place for retailers who want to serve Oregon's non-prescription market, legislators are turning to dispensaries that provide medical marijuana, which has been legal in Oregon since 1998. A bill that passed the state Senate 23-6 on Tuesday would allow dispensaries to sell to customers without a prescription starting this October to fill the gap.
State Senate Minority Leader Ted Ferrioli, a Republican, supported the bill as a proactive step to begin tamping down illegal drug sales while waiting for state agencies to set up a system for licensing and taxing retailers. "Sometimes it is difficult for the bureaucracy to keep up with democracy," Ferrioli said, according to the Oregonian.
Marijuana sales in Oregon will be heavily taxed and are expected to bring in $18 million for the state's 2015-17 budget, which covers the first year the taxes will be in effect. Forty percent of the money is headed for the state's Common School Fund.
The giveaway Wednesday morning was similar to events held this spring in Washington, D.C., where marijuana possession is legal but congressional objections have so far prevented the district from enacting laws to allow retail sales. In Oregon, for the time being, local activist Rus Belville told ABC affiliate KATU, they will "take advantage of Oregon generosity" and "free the weed" by giving it away.