Got weed? That’s no longer a problem in Oregon, where state law makes it perfectly legal for residents to smoke pot recreationally and to carry small amounts of marijuana in public – as long as they watch where they step.
In about only 47 percent of the state is it actually legal to light up a joint or stroll the streets with pocketed weed, according to the Oregonian. The other 53 percent of Oregon land is controlled by the federal government, and there’s a strict no-smoking policy on Uncle Sam’s property. The U.S. government lumps marijuana together with heroin, LSD and Ecstasy, and getting caught with any amount of marijuana on the feds’ front doorstep is likely to result in a lot more than eye-rolling.
Oregon’s new recreational marijuana law went into effect on Wednesday. Some marijuana legalization advocates celebrated by giving away weed at midnight to adults with valid IDs – only people aged 21 and older are allowed to use marijuana under the law. Lawmakers are still finalizing plans for the state’s first recreational pot shops, which probably won’t open until late 2016, so there’s really no place to buy weed legally yet, meaning nonmedical marijuana patients can only be gifted marijuana (or buy it on the black market, of course).
Oregon law permits adults to carry pot in public – up to an ounce – but they can’t smoke it. Smoking or using marijuana in public places, including in parks and playgrounds, hotel lobbies or on buses and trains, is still prohibited. Basically, the law limits marijuana consumption to the privacy of one’s home.
Still, getting caught smoking on state property won’t come with as harsh a punishment as possessing or using weed on federally managed land. Possessing any amount of marijuana on federal property could result in large fines or even jail time.
Sixty percent of Oregon’s forests are managed by the U.S. Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management and the National Park Service. Oregon controls just 4 percent of the state’s great outdoors. Only Alaska, Idaho, Nevada and Utah have more federally controlled land than Oregon.
By comparison, about 29 percent of the land in nearby Washington – which legalized marijuana in 2012 – is federally controlled. The feds manage about 36 percent of the land in Colorado, which also legalized weed in 2012.
Something else for Oregon residents to keep in mind is that entering any U.S. Postal Service office or U.S. government building is considered out of bounds for marijuana possession. Property belonging to the U.S. government, like Portland’s Terry Schrunk Plaza, is off-limits to marijuana users, according to the Oregonian.
However, punishing people for smoking up in a national park or in a U.S. government-owned plaza is low on the feds’ priority list. Federal authorities are more concerned with Oregon residents transferring weed across state lines, supporting illegal marijuana markets, or giving it to children, the Oregonian reported.
Marijuana advocates have said that overall, Oregon’s law will help decrease the number of marijuana-related arrests in the state and will give casual users the peace of mind that they won’t be labeled criminals. "It supports people who want to succeed in society," Anthony Johnson, who co-wrote Oregon’s marijuana law, said at a recent press conference, according to the Huffington Post. "There’s no reason we should saddle people with crimes on their record that prevent them from having good educational and employment opportunities."