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What You Can and Can't Do with Marijuana in Oregon

It's legal, but there are some limitations

On July 1, 2015, the state of Oregon became the fourth—after Colorado, Washington and Alaska—to legalize marijuana for recreational use. But questions remain on how to handle a substance that’s still illegal at the federal level.

Where Can You Smoke Recreational Marijuana?

In your home, of course, but not in bars and restaurants, public parks, nor on the streets. Also, “There are cannabis clubs where you pay a membership and you can come and smoke,” says Richard McBreen III, a criminal defense attorney with Owens & McBreen in Portland. “But they don’t serve marijuana. People are free to share their marijuana there … but you can’t sell it.”

The private property and public place guidelines are likewise true for edibles, concentrates, vaping and several other THC products.

Can You Be Fired for Smoking Pot?

“You can be fired for failing a drug test—even though it’s legal and you’re over 21 and never high at work,” says McBreen. “So that is still a concern for anyone who wants to go work at a school or somewhere [where] a drug test is a factor.”

This may also be true for medical marijuana and the OMMP program, so know your employer’s policies before you risk it.

What Are the Biggest Issues at the State-Federal Divide?

Travel over state lines, distribution and sales are the most obvious matters, but attorneys in every field are dealing with interpretations of the new laws.

“It’s super-important for the attorney to be aware of the state-federal divide and the continuing illegality of some of this business at the federal level,” says Anne Glazer, an intellectual property attorney with Stoel Rives in Portland. “For example, in the trademark field, one of my core practices, you cannot register a federal trademark for cannabis products or even products that may be considered paraphernalia under the drug laws.

“I recently advised an advertising/marketing client on how to handle payment security because of the fact that cannabis businesses are often unable to get bank accounts, and a service provider may not be accustomed to receiving cash payments for four- and five-figure invoices.”

What About the People Who Used To Sell Pot Illegally?

“It’s challenging for people who have been in the cannabis industry, outside the law, and now want to be legally compliant,” says Glazer. “They’re stepping into one of the most regulated industries around. Not only that, the state authorities are still working out what the rules are. They’re working out the kinks every day.”

Adds Amy Margolis, a criminal defense attorney with Emerge Law Group in Portland, “The Oregon legislature has seriously taken into consideration that many of the people who will make this industry successful have been involved in marijuana for a long time. So they’ve tried to craft the legislation and rules in a very accommodating fashion.”

Who Can Sell It?

Not just anyone. “I get calls from people from all over the country who want to join the legal marijuana industry—dispensary or a commercial grow operation—and they’re like, ‘Hey, I want to move out there, what do I need to know?’” says McBreen. “I tell ‘em, ‘Well, you have to live here for two years first.’ That’s one way of keeping it local. But there’s a lot of interest, and Portland might see an economic boom because of this.”

Where Do We Go From Here?

“I think that, as it continues,” McBreen says, “and people realize, ‘Hey, the foundations of society have not broken down,’ you’ll see it legalized in a lot more states. California is next, and so we’ll have the whole West Coast. From there it’s just a domino effect.”

If you’re interested in more information because you’re worried about facing law enforcement, see our overviews of criminal defense and drug and alcohol violations, or consider reaching out to a criminal defense attorney. If you’re interested in the business side, consult a cannabis attorney. The Oregon Liquor and Cannabis Commission (OLCC) and Oregon Health Authority can also be a valuable resource for state laws.

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