Oregon takes its first steps into the new marijuana day with glee and some trepidation. That's because it will be legal to possess, grow and consume marijuana but illegal to purchase or sell marijuana in any form. Catch-22? Hardly. Friends get by with a little help from friends. And they must: Stores launched to sell legal recreational weed won't appear till late next year, and a bill to make recreational pot available Oct. 1 at medical dispensaries moves forward in the Legislature but is not yet law.
The coming weeks and months will be pivotal for exemplifying the most valued neighborly quality: tolerance. Many who do not partake will inevitably find themselves downwind of the neighbors' back porch and their Fourth of July celebrations suffused with more than firecracker smoke. What to tell the kids?
Meanwhile, enthusiasts who mix a few marijuana seedlings in the outdoor tomato garden will be responsible for emitting a pre-harvest scent that's unmistakable for some but new for most. This could be a bigger challenge to broker in urban Portland, where tiny yards cluster, than backyard chickens. As Neil Bernstein of Roots Garden Supply in Portland told Noelle Crombie of The Oregonian/OregonLive: “People who don't like marijuana are going to have to accept that the city will only smell for a month if you are growing outdoors. It's going to stink. But at this point, everyone is going to be doing it.”
Well, maybe. But Crombie separately reported that city codes do not address odors or smoke from cigarettes or pipes or lit devices, leaving neighbors to work out scent objections amongst themselves or make appeal to a neighborhood mediation firm on stipend from the city. Yet it shouldn't have to come to that.
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Oregon has fought for this new day for years, however redolent it may become. The state's medical marijuana program, the most bloated and permissive in the nation, will now be joined by legal recreational pot, which has an apparently unlimited future in a region already known for growing extremely high quality weed.
Some of pot's most ardent enthusiasts are in Portland. On Tuesday, June 30, at midnight, for example, the Portland chapter of NORML, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, was scheduled to distribute small amounts of free marijuana and plenty of cannabis seeds to anyone 21 and over who shows up on the west side of the Burnside Bridge – a stout showing of friends helping friends, and promised to be beyond public view. Going forward, individuals will be able to trade pot in any private setting they see fit as long as no money is involved and household possession and cultivation limits are honored.
But several challenges remain with the full-bore implementation of Measure 91, conceived in large part to decriminalize possession and distribution of the intoxicant and to create a trade that would compete with, and push out, the black market. Lawmakers continue to navigate the best way forward as it relates to retail taxation; a seed-to-sale accountability system that tracks the growth, processing and commercial distribution of a burgeoning agricultural crop; and resistance from some communities, not all enamored of the new day, to site and police yet-to-be-licensed pot merchants. Bills that lend shape to full implementation passed the Senate on Tuesday but await action by the House.
It would be a shame, meanwhile, if this first early stage of legal recreational marijuana possession – not less than a milestone for Oregon – were to create divides among neighbors. While legal recreational pot finally is here because of Measure 91's passage, not everyone's a pot consumer, and not everyone even approves of pot's use. Oregonians should therefore enjoy partaking if they so choose while knowing there will be no room for gloating. Likewise, tolerance from the abstemious will go a long way to ensuring marijuana becomes an article of freedom and profit rather than a sore producing rancor.
Until recreational pot is available in medical dispensaries this year or new stores serving the recreational user open next year, it truly will take a little help from friends to ensure success.