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Oregon becomes third U.S. state to allow recreational marijuana sales

Displays at Shango Cannabis shop on first day of legal recreational marijuana sales beginning at midnight in Portland, Oregon

By Courtney Sherwood

The sale of marijuana for recreational use began in Oregon on Thursday as it joined Washington state and Colorado in allowing the sale of a drug that remains illegal under U.S. federal law.

Oregon residents 21 years and older can buy up to a quarter-ounce (seven grams) of dried flowers at roughly 200 existing medical-use marijuana dispensaries as a new law took effect that backers hope will help curb a flourishing black market.

“You can get all the best strains from Oregon, which can make this into a top tourist spot,” said Sue Vorenberg, a former cannabis industry worker and editor of the Cannabis Daily Record.

Voters in Oregon and Alaska last year approved marijuana use and possession in state-regulated frameworks. Retail pot shops, like those already operating in Washington state and Colorado, are expected to start in 2016. The District of Columbia has also legalized marijuana possession.

While marijuana use remains illegal for any reason under federal law, 23 states allow cannabis use for medical purposes. Legalization measures will be on the ballot in Ohio in November and in other states in 2016.

In Oregon, possessing and growing pot became legal in July. Come January, the state expects to start accepting applications for retail businesses. Through 2015, recreational-use pot sales will be untaxed, though that will likely change next year.

Legalization measures have drawn opposition from anti-marijuana groups who say they heighten drug use and access by children.

Roughly 30 municipalities in Oregon have enacted bans, while others have sharply limited the nascent industry.

In Portland, the state’s largest city, lawmakers on Wednesday were considering limits on the number of stores allowed in each neighborhood and operating hours.

“We’ve lost the war on marijuana,” Klamath County Commissioner Jim Bellet said last month as he voted to support the county’s cannabis ban.

Vorenberg said people have been traveling from Oregon to neighboring Washington state to buy marijuana and could continue to do so in search of lower prices.

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