Hundreds congregated on the Burnside Bridge in downtown Portland and smoked pot under the glow of neon city signs marking the moment when smoking marijuana became legal in Oregon on Wednesday.
The law, backed by voters in November, allows recreational marijuana and opens the way for shops to sell pot by next year. Similar legalization initiatives that have ushered in retail pot shops are already in force in Washington state and Colorado, reflecting a shifting landscape for a drug that remains illegal under federal law. Alaska, which also voted to legalize marijuana, hopes for pot shops in 2016.
“We are thrilled with the end of adult marijuana prohibition, but we are far from where we need to be,” said Russ Belville, from the pro-marijuana group NORML. Oregon residents aged 21 and older can now smoke privately, grow up to four plants and possess up to eight ounces (227 grams) at home and one ounce outside home, the Liquor Control Commission said.
Public smoking also remains illegal, but there were no immediate reports of arrests. Portland International Airport warned travelers that although police would not seize marijuana, passengers remained subject to the laws at their final destinations.
Regulators will start accepting business license applications in January, with stores slated for next fall.