Following the Rules Isn’t a Walk in the Park

On July 1st 2015, the possession and use of cannabis for recreational purposes in Oregon became legal. And there was much rejoicing.

However, the initial legislation stated that the sale of recreational cannabis would not begin until some time in late 2016. This was because the state needed more time to develop and implement a comprehensive set of laws to regulate all aspects of recreational cannabis production, processing, testing and distribution, as well as the mechanisms to enforce these laws.

In other words, as of July 1st 2015 it was legal to possess and use recreational cannabis in Oregon. But it was not legal to sell it. Legislators immediately recognized that this created a big problem. Consumers, who were legally allowed to possess and use recreational cannabis, would have no place to buy it other than from the illegal “black market.”

As a result, on October 1st 2015, amended measures were enacted that allowed “medical marijuana” dispensaries to sell limited amounts of cannabis to recreational users. The final 2016 regulations continue to evolve rapidly. In the meantime, it might be difficult for many consumers not only to understand exactly what the current laws permit, but also to abide by them.

So, in an effort to help you cut through the clutter and protect you from running afoul of the authorities, here are the basics of what is and isn’t legal, according to Oregon’s latest recreational cannabis laws.

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First and foremost, you must be 21 years of age or older to purchase, possess and use recreational cannabis. If you are under the age of 21, it’s illegal. No exceptions. You must have a valid, unexpired, government-issued form of identification that includes your photo, such as an Oregon driver’s license or a passport, to prove you are of legal age to purchase, possess and use recreational cannabis.

You can only legally purchase recreational cannabis products at state licensed “medical marijuana” dispensaries that have also been approved by the state to sell recreational cannabis. Not all dispensaries in Oregon will be allowed to sell recreational cannabis. Some dispensaries have chosen to sell only medicinal cannabis.

Always make sure you purchase recreational cannabis only from state approved dispensaries. If you don’t, you’re breaking the law. And always remember that purchasing any cannabis from sources that are not licensed and approved by the state (i.e. the black market) is still illegal.

FYI, all three Shango stores in Oregon have been approved to sell recreational cannabis. Just sayin’.

At this time, the only recreational cannabis products dispensaries can legally sell are dried flower and leaves, seeds, and immature plants. They cannot legally sell cannabis edibles, concentrates, oils, tinctures or topicals for recreational purposes.

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There are strict limits on the total amount of various recreational cannabis products a single dispensary can sell to you in a single business day. These include:

  • Seven grams of dried cannabis flower and/or leaves per person per day.
  • An unlimited number of cannabis seeds per person per day.

A consumer can also purchase up to four immature cannabis plants between now and the end of 2015.

However, the current laws don’t appear to limit the number of dispensaries a consumer can purchase from in any single business day. So, theoretically, you could purchase the maximum legal daily amount of cannabis products from multiple stores in a single day. But if you do, just be aware of the next set of important rules.

There are strict limits on the total amount of recreational cannabis you can possess at any given time. If you are 21 or older, you can possess:

  • Up to eight ounces of dried, ready-to-smoke cannabis flower and/or leaves in your residence.
  • Up to one ounce of dried, ready-to-smoke cannabis flower and/or leaves on your person.
  • Up to four cannabis plants on your property. However, a single residence or property can only contain four plants regardless of how many people live there.

You can also possess limited amounts of the following types of cannabis products:

  • 16 ounces of products in solid form. This generally refers to edible products such as chocolates and baked goods, and not to other types of products, such as flower, leaves, concentrates and oils.
  • 72 ounces of products in liquid form. This generally refers to various cannabis-infused soft drinks.
  • Five grams of cannabis extracts, such as shatter, wax and oil concentrates. This limit applies whether the extracts are sold in individual containers or as part of a vaporizing system, such as a disposable vaping cartridge.

Now, since you’ve all been paying close attention, you may wonder why we’re even mentioning these products.

Well, this is where it gets a little weird. While it is illegal for dispensaries to sell these products to recreational users and illegal for recreational users to purchase these products, it is legal to possess and use these products. Yes, it is perfectly legal for you to receive cannabis edibles, concentrates, oils, tinctures and topicals as “gifts” and enjoy them in any way you like. Just as long as you’re not in public.

While it is legal to possess recreational cannabis in public, it is illegal to use recreational cannabis in public. “In public” is defined as any place “to which the general public has access and includes, but is not limited to, hallways, lobbies, and other parts of apartment houses and hotels not constituting rooms or apartments designed for actual residence, and highways, streets, schools, places of amusement, parks, playgrounds and premises used in connection with public passenger transportation.” Whew.

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You are only permitted to use recreational cannabis in your residence or on private property. And you should always exercise discretion and caution. If anyone outside of your residence or property can see you using recreational cannabis, you could be considered “in public.”

That’s the gist of the current recreational cannabis regs in Oregon. You might want to re-read this a couple times and let it sink in. And while you’re at it we highly recommend that you also keep these critical facts in mind:

  • It is illegal to drive under the influence of cannabis. NEVER drive or operate machinery while under the influence of cannabis. Please see our Responsible Use (text link) guidelines for more information.
  • It is illegal to transport recreational cannabis across state lines. This is a violation of federal law. Do not purchase recreational cannabis in Oregon and take it anywhere out of the state. Likewise, do not buy recreational cannabis in another state and bring it to Oregon. The consequences and penalties could be severe.

Recreational cannabis is finally a reality for Oregonians. But every freedom must be taken seriously and enjoyed responsibly. Oregon’s current recreational cannabis laws provide a good framework for regulating its purchase, possession and responsible use. And by following these rules, we can enjoy the cannabis experience and pave the way for even greater freedoms in the future.

Our sincere thanks to Erin Kennedy of Aperture Consultants for her kind assistance in preparing this entry. Aperture is a regulatory compliance consultant for the Oregon cannabis industry.