As of Wednesday, Oregon residents will be officially allowed to cultivate, posses, and consume recreational marijuana without fear of a shakedown erupting from state and local police departments.
The new law, which is the result of the majority voting in favor of Measure 91 in the November 2014 election, gives adults 21 and over permission to hold up to an ounce of weed in public, keep up to eight ounces at home, as well as permits each household to grow up to four plants for personal use.
Although Oregon’s prohibitionary restrictions on the cannabis plant will be abolished as of July 1, 2015, it is still going to be a few months before legal sales get underway. State lawmakers speculated that it could be as long as late 2016 before the recreational cannabis trade were fully operational, but a House Senate committee approved a bill last Thursday, expediting this process to some extent. It is now expected that a temporary retail pot market will begin sometime in October 2015.
Until then, pot enthusiasts across the Beaver State will simply be forced to rely on the kindness of strangers as well as the black market to maintain their cannabis coffers. The good news, however, is while the law strictly prohibits residents from engaging in underground street deals; it does not prevent the pro-bono transfer of marijuana between good people. Similar to an ordinance passed earlier this year in the District of Columbia, “sharing and gifting are the only ways to legally acquire recreational marijuana,” in Oregon, at least until a handful of dispensaries are given the green light to start selling recreational smoke later this year.
Those interested in home cultivation will also experience a few snags. As of now, the medical marijuana community is the only sector allowed to purchase cannabis plants, which makes it tricky for recreational tokers searching for a seedling to put in the ground on Wednesday. However, Oregon has been the site of a successful medical marijuana program for nearly two decades. Those with a finger on the pulse of market say this will make it easier to sniff out growers with a surplus of plants.
"To be more than two people removed from a marijuana grower in this city is hard," Neil Bernstein, owner of Roots Garden Supply in North Portland, told The Oregonian.
Since no money can change hands, however, potential growers will have to rely on their charm to get their hands on a plant. That is unless they are prepared to take a few risks and cross over into Washington.
Recently, Portland authorities announced that they had no plans to shakedown stoners smuggling Washington weed across the state line back into Oregon.
“We are not doing interdiction on people who are going there to buy their weed and bringing it back,” said Sergeant Pete Simpson. “Our drugs and vice division has not and does not focus on low level drug transfers of any kind. They are working large scale operations, which is not what we are talking about.”
Although Portland’s sentiment is greatly appreciated, there is a major issue that could make the concept of purchasing pot in Washington and bringing it back to Oregon a bad move. Despite state law, Uncle Sam still considers it a federal offense to travel across state borders in possession of anything derived from the cannabis plant – a crime to could carry the weight of a lengthy prison term.
Yet there has been some question into whether the federal government will choose to intervene in the conundrum of bordering legal states, but so far, the consensus seems to be that as long as there exists grounds for trouble, the Justice Department will find a clever way of bringing it to the surface. So be careful.
All in all, the temporary inconveniences surrounding Oregon’s new pot law will outweigh prohibition – a costly failure that has resulted in tens of thousands of minor pot offenders being arrested every year, not to mention economic strangleholds to the tune of millions of dollars to state and local municipalities.
Soon enough, Oregon will experience the added fiscal benefits to the implementation of Measure 91, once the taxed and regulated market is fully operational later next year. In 2014, Colorado generated about $76 million in pot taxes, and without an influx of crime or other hazards to public safety. In fact, statistics provided by the Drug Policy Alliance shows that violent crime and traffic fatalities have decreased in Colorado since the legalization of marijuana.
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