Marijuana is now officially legal in Oregon. Sadly, though, it’s no easier to get the drug, and won’t be for some time.
The state’s voters legalized cannabis in the 2014 election, as did voters in Alaska and Washington, D.C. Weed is already legal for recreation in Washington State and Colorado.
Oregon’s new marijuana law went into effect July 1. That means the purchase, possession, and use of up to 8 ounces of marijuana is now legal at home. Adults over 21 are also allowed to carry up to 1 ounce in public.
It is also legal to grow up to four pot plants on private property. But it remains illegal to sell any amount of the drug outside Oregon’s medical marijuana industry.
Industry regulations still being drafted
That’s because state officials are still drafting regulations to govern a retail marijuana market. Growers, processors, and retailers will be licensed by the state, and it will take several months to process the permits.
The first legal recreational pot shops should open in fall 2016. That leaves a year during which stoners will have to get their weed from MMJ patients or buy it from the black market. Adults are now allowed to gift up to an ounce, but only if nothing else of value changes hands.
It is currently legal in four states to possess small amounts of cannabis for personal use. The first recreational marijuana stores opened last year in two of them, Colorado and Washington, and have done brisk business ever since.
Medical marijuana widely available
Medical weed is legal in another 33 states, including Minnesota, where the first legal cannabis became available to patients July 1. Oregon lawmakers recently passed legislation that will make it harder for recreational users to get their hands on medical pot.
State officials hope to drive those users from the medical market, where weed is tax-free and typically much cheaper. Oregon already has the cheapest pot in the United States, with an average ounce selling for little more than $200.
It’s not clear how that fact will affect legal weed when it goes on sale next year. In Colorado and Washington – but especially in Washington – the retail market was initially highly overpriced, with a high-quality eighth selling for $70 or more.
That has changed in recent months, as cannabis prices have dropped rapidly. If retailers can manage to meet the prices of the black market out of the gate, they could deal a crippling blow to illegal dealers.
The Oregon Liquor Control Commission is in charge of the state’s new legal weed market. The agency expects to begin accepting license applications by January.
Meanwhile, Oregonians and their out-of-state visitors must continue to find marijuana the old-fashioned way. But drug cartels should expect to lose their grip on the state soon. Legal marijuana has arrived, and potheads will soon have a viable alternative to the black market.