Marijuana enthusiasts gather before midnight to celebrate the legalization of recreational use of marijuana in Portland, Oregon
Oregon officially became the fourth state to legalize recreational marijuana on Wednesday, as pot smokers gathered across the Beaver State to light up and celebrate.
In Portland, hundreds of weed enthusiasts fanned out across the aptly-named Burnside Bridge before midnight, counting down the minutes until the law allowing recreational use went into effect. As was the case in Colorado, Washington and Alaska, Oregon pot smokers hugged and toked like stoners at the stroke of midnight on New Year's Eve.
There was, however, at least one reason to curb the herb enthusiasm. The Oregon law allows those 21 and older to smoke marijuana privately, grow up to four pot plants and possess up to eight ounces of weed at home and carry one ounce outside. But unlike Colorado and Washington, pot shops won't arrive until 2016, and a bill that would allow bans on retail sales in cities and counties where at least 55 percent of voters are against legalization is headed to the governor's desk.
"We're legal as of midnight, but we don't have any legal place to purchase," Russ Belville, head of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws' Portland chapter, told KATU-TV.
Those celebrating the new law weren't complaining: Until the retail stores arrive, Oregonians are being encouraged to share their stashes.
"I'm just here to get weed for free," Phillip Piper, who was visiting from Tennessee, told the Oregonian.
"I never imagined you'd be able to hand out joints in the street and it would be acceptable," Kristin McKinnon told the paper.
"We figure, let's take advantage of Oregon generosity and just overgrow," Belville said. "Free the weed — so to speak — so that we're not perpetuating the black market."
On Friday, an event dubbed "Weed the People" is scheduled in North Portland. Attendees will be able to share, sample and take home up to 7 grams of weed cultivated by Oregon growers that have been producing the state's medical marijuana.
According to organizers, tickets for the event — at $40 a pop — are already sold out, and there are more than 750 people on a waiting list.
Free the weed, indeed.