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In the mid-term election of 2014, Oregon voters passed a measure legalizing personal, nonmedical marijuana use and sale in the state. The new law, called Measure 91, took effect on July 1, 2015, although sales will not be legal until 2016.
The new Oregon law legalizes the possession of marijuana by adults age 21 and over for personal, nonmedical use. Oregon already had in place a medical marijuana law that allowed use for certified medical purposes. Measure 91 has no effect on Oregon’s medical marijuana laws and, even after personal use is allowed, Oregonians without medical certification will not be able to purchase marijuana for personal use at medical marijuana dispensaries. Measure 91 also legalizes commercial grow and retail operations, and sets up a procedure to regulate and tax such operations.
Major Elements of the Law
Measure 91 covers the possession, growth, commercial processing, and sale of marijuana for personal, nonmedical use.
Under Measure 91, Oregon will allow adults to possess up to one ounce of marijuana in bud or leaf form in a public place, and eight ounces at home, starting July 1, 2015. In addition to possession of the plant form of the drug, anyone age 21 or over will be allowed to possess up to one pound of solid edibles (such as candies, cookies, and the like), 72 ounces of marijuana-infused liquid (such as spiked sodas), and up to one ounce of marijuana extract (which is used in vaporizer pens).
Commercial sale and regulation
The Oregon Liquor Control Commission has until January 1, 2016 to develop and implement regulations for the production, processing, and commercial sale of marijuana under Measure 91. Applications to grow, process, or sell marijuana for personal use will be accepted by the state beginning on January 4, 2016, and it will start to issue licenses during the first half of 2016.
Growing for personal use
Although commercial marijuana producers cannot grow plants until they receive licensing, which will not happen before 2016, people who want to grow their own for personal, noncommercial use can do so beginning on July 1, 2015. Each household in Oregon will be allowed to grow up to four plants. Measure 91 defines “household” to encompass all types of dwellings, including apartments and mobile homes. Oregon will not impose a tax on marijuana plants grown for personal, nonmedical use, nor will it inspect or register them.
Oregonians will not be able to buy marijuana for personal, nonmedical use legally anywhere in the state until sometime in 2016. However, starting July 1, 2015, it will be legal for anyone age 21 or over give up to one ounce to another person age 21 or over for personal use. The emphasis here is on the word “give”—it must be a true gift and nothing of value may be exchanged for the marijuana.
Public use not allowed
Although an adult may have on his or her person up to one ounce of marijuana in any form in a public place, public consumption is not legal under Measure 91. “Public place” is defined under the law as “a place to which the general public has access” and includes, but is not limited to:
- apartment and hotel hallways, lobbies, and other public areas
- highways and streets
- places of amusement
- playgrounds, and
- buses, trains, and other forms of public transit, as well as transit stops and stations.
Public place may include even parts of a private residence if visible to members of the general public (such as a front stoop near the sidewalk).
No effect on employment laws
Measure 91 will not alter Oregon employment law. This means that employers may prohibit any kind of intoxication or use at work, and those employers who are allowed to conduct drug testing of employees can continue to do so after Measure 91 takes effect.
Transporting across state lines
Although both Washington and Oregon will allow personal, nonmedical marijuana use starting in July 2015, it will still be illegal to possess marijuana while crossing from one state to the other (or into any other state) under federal law. Marijuana legally purchased in Oregon must be consumed in that state.
And, of course, it will still be illegal to drive under the influence of marijuana in Oregon after Measure 91 takes effect.