Eight things you need to know about legal pot

PORTLAND, Ore. – The day when Oregonians can legally smoke weed is almost here.

In November, Oregon became the third state to legalize recreational marijuana when it passed Measure 91.

On July 1, part of that measure goes into effect. Although you won’t be able to buy recreational pot until at least the fall of 2016, you can start to grow your own cannabis and use it.

So what does that mean for you? Where can people light up, and where can’t they?

We dove into the burning questions of legal weed: Where you can smoke, ingest or carry the drug, where you could still get busted, and just how safe it is to use.

Here’s what you need to know about Oregon’s new legal pot law, whether you’re at home, at work, in public or on the road.

At Home

What the law means to homeowners and renters

Can I smoke in my house?

Yes, you can. The law says you can have up to eight ounces of useable marijuana (meaning dried flowers) and up to 16 ounces of marijuana edibles, such as pot brownies.

What about in my yard?

You can technically smoke anywhere on your private property, although you are supposed to keep pot plants and drug use out of the public eye. Your backyard is probably OK. The front porch is a gray area, according to Tom Towslee, spokesman for the Oregon Liquor Control Commission’s marijuana division. Your best bet is to avoid it.

Can I grow pot?

Yes. You are legally allowed to grow up to four plants per household, and have eight ounces of usable pot in your home. You can also make up to 16 ounces of edibles with that pot. You can’t, however, make marijuana extracts or hash oil.

What if I rent?

It depends. You can’t smoke or grow pot in your house if your landlord has non-smoking or non-marijuana stipulations. Check your rental agreement and, if you have concerns, ask your landlord.

Where can I buy seeds or starts?

There’s no way to legally buy seeds or starter plants until the OLCC sets the licensing regulations for retailers in 2016.

But one seed company is going to give away seeds on July 1, which is legal. Stoney Girl Gardens is handing out up to 10,000 packets of cannabis seeds during an event from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Anyone over 21 who shows up to the dispensary at 10287 SE Highway 212 in Clackamas with a valid ID will get a packet. The company also has plans to give away starts during an upcoming grow class.

The July 3 event “Weed the People” will also be giving away marijuana products, although it’s charging a $40 admission fee.

Towslee admits the OLCC isn’t blind to the fact that there’s already weed in the state and people will probably be sharing their seeds with friends.

“We refer to this as sort of the immaculate conception aspect of the law. On July 1 are people suddenly going to possess marijuana as if it dropped out of the sky?” He posited. “Whatever you possessed on June 30 becomes legal July 1.”

Can I give pot to my friends?

Yes. You can share your pot with friends, and get pot from friends, as long as no money changes hands. You can only give your friends an ounce of pot if they plan on leaving your house afterwards, because they would be going out in public.

What if I have kids?

Only adults 21 and older are legally allowed to use the drug. As for having pot around your kids? OLCC spokesman Tom Towslee urged parents to use good judgment.

“We would hope that parents would be responsible and not just protect children and follow the law, but also have a conversation with children about what’s going on,” he said.

What if my neighbors’ pot smoking is bothering me?

Towslee said those complaints will likely fall under your town’s nuisance laws.

“It would probably be treated not unlike a barking dog,” he said. “If the neighbors are annoyed by marijuana smoke coming over the fence, they should call the local law enforcement.”

At Work

How the law impacts the workplace

Can I smoke at work?

Probably not, unless you have an extremely lenient employer or work for yourself. Working while high could be treated the same as working under the influence of alcohol or other drugs – likely grounds for termination.

Can I smoke after work?

Not if your employer has a policy that forbids marijuana use or drug tests for pot. Your employer’s workplace laws don’t change on July 1 and you can still get fired – even if you use marijuana for medical purposes.

Colorado’s Supreme Court recently ruled that a medical marijuana patient could be fired after failing a drug test, even though recreational pot is legal in the state. Oregon’s marijuana law would likely support a similar ruling.

If your employer doesn’t have a drug policy that prohibits marijuana use, you are safe to smoke outside of work.

Can I bring pot to work?

If your employer doesn’t have any stipulations in their employment policy about bringing drugs to work, you can legally bring up to an ounce of marijuana to your workplace.

In Public

The rules for pot in public places

Can I smoke in public?

No. You can’t smoke or ingest pot anywhere in public.

What about a private area of a public park?

No. It’s still considered public.

Can I carry pot in public?

Yes. You can have up to an ounce of marijuana with you while you’re in public.

Can I be high in public if I smoked at home?

Yes, as long as you’re not disturbing other people.

What about events like the upcoming Cannabis Cup and Weed the People? Can I smoke there?

Only if it’s designated a private event, on private property. They have to give the pot away and not sell it. The OLCC also regulates both alcohol and marijuana, and if the event sells alcohol, having marijuana on site would violate the liquor license even if they were giving it away.

On the Road

What the law means for transportation

Can I bring pot in my car?

Yes. You can have up to an ounce of marijuana with you in your car.

How about a MAX train?

Yup. As long as you aren’t smoking on the MAX, you are free to carry it aboard.

What about a plane?

This gets dicey. It’s a federal offense to carry marijuana across state lines. Even if you are traveling in state, commercial flights are federally regulated and the feds consider marijuana illegal. If you are taking a private plane from one part of Oregon to another, you’re probably fine to bring marijuana with you.

If I smoke pot, how long should I wait before driving?

This varies for every person, depending on his or her experience level, and the amount and type of pot consumed. And, unlike alcohol, it’s nearly impossible for police to test for the amount of marijuana that’s currently affecting you. If the cops believe you are too high to drive, they can conduct a field sobriety test and arrest you on probable cause.

Both police and the OLCC urge people to use caution before driving. If you do not know your limits, stay home or at a friend’s house and wait to drive until the next day.

Can I drive to Washington, buy pot and bring it back?

No. It’s a federal offense. If you buy pot in Washington you have to consume it in Washington, abiding by those state laws.

Portland police, however, will not be enforcing the border issue.

“We can’t (and don’t) enforce it and have no plans to do interdiction to stop people from going to Washington to buy an ounce of marijuana to bring home to Oregon,” said Sgt. Pete Simpson, spokesman for the Portland Police Bureau.

Marijuana Safety

How safe is cannabis for adults and kids?

How safe is smoking marijuana?

Marijuana’s short-term effects can include euphoria, relaxation, impaired memory, dry mouth and red eyes, according to the National Institute of Health. Those effects usually subside a few hours after ingesting the drug, but the chemicals can stay in your system for up to 30 days.

Its long-term effects are debated, but it could affect brain development in teens, the National Institute on Drug Abuse reports.

The cognitive effects healthy adults who use the drug are not significant, although it has been linked to worsening symptoms in schizophrenia patients.

Heavy marijuana use can lead to some breathing problems (if smoking), dependence, and mood changes. Officials urge moderation, as with alcohol.

How much should I ingest?

Each person reacts to marijuana differently. Experienced users may be able to smoke a joint and feel fine, while a novice could feel paranoid or have hallucinations. If you are unsure of how you will react, go slowly.

For smokers, that means taking one our two “hits” and waiting a bit. It takes marijuana smoke a few minutes to fully kick in, and the effects usually last a couple of hours.

Pot food takes a lot longer to hit a person, and it usually takes around an hour before the effects are felt. It could be a few hours or longer before you feel back to normal. Edibles should be eaten in small doses at first. It’s much easier to accidentally eat too much than smoke too much.

What should I do if I feel like I’m overdosing?

The good news is that overdose deaths are extremely rare, and it’s nearly impossible to die from just smoking the drug. The bad news is that feeling too high can be very scary, and you could feel paranoid, have a racing heart or feel like you’re having a panic attack. The only true antidote is time, but treatment for the overdose symptoms can include anti-anxiety medication and making sure a person does not injure themselves. If you are concerned of an overdose, call the Oregon Poison Center at 1-800-222-1222.

What about second-hand smoke? Is it okay for kids to be around it?

The Oregon Poison Center said there is no evidence showing that second-hand marijuana smoke is dangerous to adults or children, although no long-term effects have been studied.

What should I do if my kid accidentally ingests marijuana?

If your child accidentally ingests marijuana, call the Oregon Poison Center for assistance. The Oregon Poison Center also stresses the importance of “poison-proofing” your home in order to keep potentially dangerous substances out of reach of kids.

While marijuana exposure in kids may be frightening, injury or death is extremely rare. The Oregon Poison Center treats around 40 kids exposed to marijuana each year, but many are teens who also ingested another intoxicant (such as alcohol) at the same time.

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As in other states, details surrounding Oregon’s marijuana law will likely be tweaked after it goes into effect. The OLCC and police departments are still ironing out how they will regulate and enforce the newly legal substance. But, Towslee explains, all of the regulations center around common sense.

“Clearly there are a lot of things about Measure 91 that are going to be difficult to enforce,” Towslee said. “The biggest aspect of this law is taking responsibility of your personal behavior, doing the right thing and not being an asshole.”

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