Legal toking still months away despite pot votes in Alaska, Oregon

Wed Nov 5, 2014 6:00pm EST
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By Shelby Sebens

PORTLAND Ore. (Reuters) - Voters in the blue state of Oregon and red state of Alaska have joined the fledgling green column of the U.S. political map by choosing to legalize recreational marijuana, but supporters are not at liberty to light up or buy their cannabis just yet.

Ballot measures approved in both states on Tuesday will take months to go into effect, with pot enthusiasts in Oregon having to wait until next summer to legally indulge and neither state likely to make marijuana available for commercial sales before 2016.

"Anyone who is driving down the freeway and lights up a doobie and waives at an officer is going to get a ticket," Clatsop County District Attorney Josh Marquis, spokesman for the defeated "vote no" campaign in Oregon, told Reuters.

The Oregon and Alaska measures will legalize recreational marijuana possession and usher in state-licensed retail pot shops similar to those that opened this year in Washington state and Colorado, which became the first to allow cannabis use for pleasure under 2012 voter initiatives.

District of Columbia voters on Tuesday approved legalization of marijuana possession but not its sale.

Supporters pointed to the outcome as a sign of growing acceptance of marijuana consumption as part of the American mainstream, with advocates of liberalized pot laws looking to California as their next battleground in 2016.

"In 2016 we're going to push the ball forward in several states until we end prohibition," said Leland Berger, a Portland attorney who helped write the new Oregon law.

But nothing changes immediately on the ground in Oregon or Alaska. The newly passed Alaska law is expected to go into effect next February, while Oregon pot smokers will have to wait until July 2015. Retail outlets are not expected to open in either state until the following year.   Continued...

Pedestrians pass by a DC Cannabis Campaign sign in Washington November 4, 2014.           REUTERS/Gary Cameron