Our Guide to Oregon Marijuana Laws

On November 4, 2014, with the passage of Measure 91, the state of Oregon voted to legalize the possession, consumption, cultivation, and recreational sale of marijuana within its borders. That same evening, voters in Alaska and The District of Columbia passed similar measures. This put all 3 in the company of 2012 trailblazers Colorado and Washington as being among the first states to allow adults access to recreational marijuana via a state-licensed retail system.

Read on to learn what has happened in the years since and how to be a law-abiding cannabis user in the Beaver State.

How Oregon Got Legal

As the first state in the U.S. to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of cannabis in 1973, and as one of the first states to authorize its use for medical purposes, Oregon has long been known for it’s free-spirited attitude toward marijuana as well as its support for relaxing marijuana laws and ending prohibition. More than 14% of Oregonians smoke marijuana on a regular basis which is one of the highest percentages in the nation, and more than likely a contributing factor to the well-known and well-publicized campaign to “Keep Portland Weird” in its largest city.

Oregon’s thriving medical marijuana system (legalized in 2005) is credited for increasing overall acceptance of cannabis use in the state prior to the passage of Measure 91, as is the popularity and success of the annual Hempstalk Festival. This event, which has grown to more than 40,000 attendees since it began in 2007, advocates for the decriminalization of marijuana on a national level and is now among the largest marijuana-related events in the country. The City of Portland hopes the annual International Cannabis Business Conference, established in 2014 as a networking event for cannabis entrepreneurs, will similarly aid efforts to legitimize the marijuana industry as one that can boost state economies and tax revenues.

Marijuana Law Milestones
  • 1935: Oregon passes the Uniform State Narcotic Drug Act, making cannabis illegal for the first time in the state’s history.
  • 1973: The Oregon Decriminalization Bill is passed, reducing personal possession and use of up to one ounce of marijuana from a crime to a civil violation punishable only by a fine.
  • November 1998: With the passage of Ballot Measure 67, medical marijuana becomes legal in the state of Oregon.
  • 2010: The Oregon Board of Pharmacy reclassifies marijuana from a Schedule I drug to a Schedule II drug, making it the first state to do so.
    • The federal government, however, continues to classify cannabis as a Schedule I drug.
  • November 2010: An initiative proposing that medical marijuana dispensaries be legalized for recreational marijuana sales is voted down by Oregonians.
  • November 2012: Measure 80, a subsequent legalization bill, fails at the ballot box.
  • November 4, 2014: Oregon voters finally legalize the possession, consumption, and sale of marijuana for recreational use by passing Measure 91.
    • We’ll go into more detail about the law later, but essentially:
      • Measure 91 legalizes the possession of small amounts of marijuana, as well as the cultivation of your own marijuana plants if you’re 21 or over, and
      • Creates a legal recreational marijuana industry
  • October 1, 2015: The state allows recreational marijuana sales to begin at select dispensaries as part of a stop-gap measure while it writes rules for production, processing, and sale of marijuana.
  • October 23, 2015: The Oregon Liquor Control Commission (OLCC) releases the rules governing the retail marijuana system.
The Steps to Legalization

After Measure 91 passed, marijuana stores didn’t appear overnight–in fact, it was not until more than a year later that recreational marijuana first became available for purchase. Here’s the timeline of what happened between passage of Measure 91 and stores opening for business, and what has happened since Oregon’s recreational industry first got underway.

  • November 4, 2014: Oregon voters approve Measure 91.
  • December 4, 2014: Election results are certified and the Oregon Liquor Control Commission, which will be responsible for regulating the recreational marijuana industry, can begin establishing rules for the new industry.
  • July 1, 2015: Measure 91 officially takes effect, meaning possession and cultivation of marijuana is legal.
    • More changes are made to criminal statutes related to marijuana.
      • Adults 21 and over can possess up to an ounce of marijuana in a public place and/or up to 8 ounces in their homes with no criminal penalty.
  • October 1, 2015: Select dispensaries begin selling recreational marijuana to adults 21 and over.
  • October 23, 2015: The OLCC releases the rules that will govern the retail marijuana system.
  • January 4, 2016: The OLCC begins accepting applications for marijuana business licenses.
  • April 29, 2016: The OLCC issues the first licenses to recreational marijuana producers.
  • August 30, 2016: The OLCC issues the first licenses to marijuana testing laboratories.
  • October 1, 2016: The OLCC issues the first licenses to recreational marijuana retailers.
    • This is nearly 2 years after voters passed the ballot measure legalizing cannabis.
  • October 8, 2016: The first 12 shops open for business in Portland, along coastline and in southern and central Oregon.
  • November 2016: Residents in multiple Oregon cities where bans on marijuana sales had been proposed vote against the bans, opening their doors to the state’s now legal marijuana industry.
    • But most of the 60 communities that considered marijuana bans approved them, making all recreational marijuana businesses in their jurisdictions illegal.
    • Some of them do vote to allow medical marijuana dispensaries to exist for the first time since medical cannabis was legalized.
  • December 31, 2016: Medical marijuana dispensaries must cease sales of recreational marijuana now that stores have opened.
  • February 2017: Oregon lawmakers consider a proposal to merge key elements of the medical marijuana program with the recreational marijuana program, as well as bills that would allow cannabis-friendly clubs and special events.
    • None of the proposals or bills are passed.
  • April 2017: A bill is introduced to change the formula for distributing marijuana tax revenue, shifting dollars from the Common School Fund to mental health and addiction treatment services.
    • The bill is strongly opposed by those in the Oregon school system.

To get the latest updates on the recreational marijuana business straight from the OLCC, sign up for updates on their website.

The National Context

So how is Oregon’s legalization of recreational marijuana seen on a federal level?

  • Since marijuana is still classified as a Schedule 1 controlled substance at a federal level, many residents of Oregon and other states that voted for legalization in 2014 held their breaths, waiting to see whether the Department of Justice would step in and play a role in state-level processes.
  • But,Attorney General Eric Holder said in a memo to the governors of those states that the DOJ would not interfere and planned to allow the laws to go into effect.
  • Those working for drug policy reform say the approval of Measure 91 dramatically boosts the movement’s political clout on a national level and adds to the pressure on the federal government to allow each state to decide on its own regulations.
  • Tom Angell, Chairman of the drug policy reform group called Marijuana Majority, claims that the end of federal marijuana prohibition is now only a matter of time and that policies related to it will be a much bigger issue in Washington DC now that more states are legalizing marijuana.
  • The confirmation of Alabama senator Jeff Sessions as the Attorney General in February 2017 created some anxiety among marijuana reform advocates since he can choose to uphold or rescind the U.S. Justice Department’s August 2013 memo suggesting that U.S. attorneys not prioritize marijuana-related convictions.
  • You can learn more about the current administration’s thoughts on state legalization by reading this article.

And how does it fit in with other legalization movements around the country?

  • Both Alaska and Washington passed their own legalization initiatives on November 4, 2014, as didWashington, D.C.
  • Once Nevada joined the growing ranks of legalization on November 8, 2016, there are now four states sharing borders on the west coast that have legalized marijuana.
  • This creates an interesting conundrum since it is illegal to transport cannabis across state lines, even between states that have legalized it. So everyone involved in the legalization movement will be watching closely to see how the situation is managed by authorities out west.
  • With legalization now in place in 8 states and the District of Columbia, the national market for marijuana is projected to reach $7 billion by the end of 2017 and $22 billion by 2022.
  • More and more states are expected to place legalization measures on the ballot in the coming elections.
  • Read all about the current status of marijuana in all the states over at NORML.

The Law in Oregon

Personal Use

These are the rules:

  • Just like alcohol, marijuana can only be purchased by adults. You have to be at least 21 years old to buy products from a recreational marijuana store.
    • Any adult can purchase marijuana in Oregon, including out-of-state visitors, as long as they have proper ID.
  • All recreational products must be consumed in Oregon.
    • It’s still illegal to transport marijuana across state lines.
  • The most you can purchase and possess at any one time is:
    • 1 ounce (28 grams) of marijuana
    • 16 ounces of a cannabis product in solid form (edibles, for example)
    • 72 ounces of a cannabis product in liquid form (beverages, tinctures, and topicals)
    • 1 ounce of marijuana extracts or concentrates
  • The most you can possess at home is:
    • 8 ounces or less of marijuana
    • 16 ounces of a cannabis product in solid form (edibles, for example)
    • 72 ounces of a cannabis product in liquid form (beverages, tinctures, and topicals)
    • 1 ounce of marijuana extracts or concentrates
  • Growing your own marijuana plants is legal for adults 21 and over.
    • You may grow up to 4 per household, not per individual.
    • Unlike other states, Oregon’s law makes no stipulation about how many of the plants can be mature or flowering at one time.
    • Any plants being grown must be out of public view and in a secure place.
    • If you rent, this could be problematic if your landlord has rules against marijuana use on his or her property.
  • You can share or give away 1 ounce or less of what you buy or grow to another adult who is 21 or over, as long as no money changes hands.

To learn more about the laws regarding personal use in Oregon:

A Word About Medical Marijuana

Medical marijuana was made legal in Oregon in 1998, nearly 2 decades earlier than recreational marijuana. And the system that was subsequently put into place to manage and oversee the medical marijuana program was not altered or impacted at all by the passage of Measure 91 in 2014.

  • Medical marijuana dispensaries operate as usual and, after December 31, 2016, can sell marijuana only to patients.
    • This was after the stop-gap measure allowing them to make recreational sales ended once recreational stores opened.
  • While there were proposals submitted in early 2017 to combine the medical marijuana and recreational marijuana programs, the two programs currently remain separate.
    • Proponents of these proposals say combining the programs would be more efficient and less costly, but opponents maintain that it would have an adverse impact on patients, subjecting them to higher costs and more extensive security requirements.
  • The number of medical dispensaries has continued to decrease after recreational marijuana was legalized with many dispensaries migrating to the larger recreational industry.
  • Patients obtain their medical marijuana patient registration cards as usual.
  • Patients can:
    • Possess up to 24 ounces of usable cannabis
    • Grow up to 6 mature plants and up to 18 immature seedlings
    • Still have only one designated, primary caregiver (who cannot be their physician)
      • Caregivers must be 18 years of age or older

If you want to read the details about how Measure 91 impacted the medical marijuana program in Oregon, check out this Q & A from the Medical Marijuana Dispensary Program.

Buying Marijuana

You’re 21 years old and you want to buy some marijuana. Where can you buy it in Oregon?

  • Adults 21 and over can only buy marijuana at OLCC-licensed retail shops. That means:
    • No delivery services
    • No internet sales
    • No food trucks or restaurants selling marijuana-infused dishes
  • Note that some cities and municipalities have banned recreational marijuana sales altogether.
  • As another reminder, all recreational cannabis bought in Oregon must be consumed in Oregon.
What to Expect at the Store
  • Hours of operation for shops are determined by the cities where they are located.
  • A doorman checks IDs before you buy, just like at a bar.
  • There are no free samples.
  • Opened marijuana products are not allowed inside stores.
  • And neither is consumption. Just like opening a bottle in a liquor store is illegal, lighting up in a marijuana store is as well.
  • Certain kinds of paraphernalia–like pipes, bongs, and storage containers–will be on hand for purchase.
  • Other kinds of paraphernalia–for example, extraction equipment–will have to be purchased elsewhere.
  • Be prepared to pay cash since stores do not take credit cards or checks. But most stores will have an ATM on-site for customer convenience.

So now that you’ve bought marijuana, where can you smoke it?

  • It’s legal to smoke marijuana in Oregon if you are:
    • On private property
    • Outside the view of the general public
      • If you own a home, you are free to consume your marijuana there
      • If you rent, this could be problematic if your residence is a non-smoking one or if your landlord has rules against marijuana use on his or her property
  • You can’t smoke marijuana:
    • In public
    • On the street
    • On public transportation or in public recreational areas
    • In view of the general public
    • At the retail shop where you bought it
    • Anywhere where smoking is banned
      • Which includes bars, restaurants, many hotels, and places of business
      • Concerts and sporting events
      • Anywhere it is prohibited to have an open container of alcohol
        • Which includes your vehicle
    • On federal land, which includes
      • National parks
      • Federal courthouses
      • National monuments
      • Military bases
    • On some Indian reservations

If you’re caught consuming marijuana where it is banned, you will not go to jail. You’ll simply be asked to cease your consumption and you will be fined a minimum of $130 up to $1,000. This does not apply to federal land since the feds have their own marijuana-related laws.

Police Enforcement

Driving High

Measure 91 specifically states that any use of marijuana while driving is considered a Class B traffic violation which is punishable by a fine, license suspension, and other penalties. The violation can be elevated from Class B to Class A if any persons are injured or any property is damaged during the course of the violation.

So what is driving high in Oregon?

  • Unlike Colorado and Washington, Oregon has no “magic number” or defined level for the THC content in your blood that is officially designated as drugged driving.
  • Instead, the law simply states that “a person commits the offense of use of marijuana while driving if the person uses any marijuana while driving a motor vehicle upon a highway.”
  • With laws this unclear, it’s best to stay put and never drive after consuming any amount of marijuana.

How an officer can stop you:

  • An officer can stop for another offense, such as speeding, an illegal turn, etc.
  • If they have probable cause that you are driving impaired. This includes:
    • Swerving
    • Illegal actions (speeding, etc.)
    • Other suspicious driving activity

What happens when they stop you:

  • They will ask some questions, observe your behavior, and probably have you take a preliminary breath test.
  • If you pass the breath test–meaning no alcohol is detected–then they’ll conduct field sobriety tests to determine your level of impairment. The test can be:
    • Walk the Line Test–you’ll be asked to walk in a straight line and the officer will watch for lack of balance, inability to stay on a straight line, or breaks in walking.
    • One Leg Stand Test–you will be asked to raise your foot, be still, count, and look down, and the officer will watch for swaying, hopping, or putting your foot down.
  • They’ll also look for:
    • Dilated pupils
    • The smell of pot
    • Eyelid or body tremors
    • Especially relaxed and uninhibited behavior
    • Short-term memory problems
  • If you fail the field sobriety test and/or an officer has other probable cause to suspect you’re driving while high, Oregon’s implied consent law allows the officer to require you to take a chemical test to determine if there is THC in your system.
    • If you refuse the testing, you will be fined between $500 and $1,000.

Penalties for a first offense include:

  • A fine of no less than $1,000 but no more than $6,250
  • A minimum of 48 hours of jail time up to 1 year in jail
  • License suspension for 30 days
  • Up to 160 hours of community service

Learn more about the laws and penalties related to drugged driving in Oregon from NORML.

Other Legal Information

Possession of more than allowable amounts in public:

  • Possession of 1-2 ounces is a simple violation that results in a fine of $650.
  • Possession of more than 2 ounces and up to 4 ounces is a misdemeanor punishable by up to 6 months in jail and a $2,500 fine.
  • Possession of more than 4 ounces is also a misdemeanor but is punishable by up to 1 year in jail and a $6,250 fine.

Possession of more than allowable amounts at home:

  • Possession of 1-2 pounds is a misdemeanor punishable by up to 6 months in jail and a $2,500 fine.
  • Possession of more than 2 pounds is also a misdemeanor but is punishable by up to 1 year in jail and a $6,250 fine.

Unlicensed manufacturing of any amount:

  • Is considered a felony punishable by up to 5 years in jail and a fine of $125,000.
  • Within 1,000 feet of school grounds is considered a felony punishable by a maximum of 20 years in jail and up to $375,000 in fines.


  • Growing more than 4 and up to 8 plants at home is a misdemeanor punishable by up to 6 months in jail and a $2,500 fine.
  • Growing more than 8 plants at home or any amount away from home is a felony with up to 5 years in jail and a $125,000 fine.
  • Unlicensed growing of any number of plants within 1,000 feet of school grounds is considered a felony punishable by a maximum of 20 years in jail and up to $375,000 in fines

City and municipal laws:

  • Some cities and municipalities have passed their own marijuana laws, including the ban of retail stores within their city limits. Be sure you know the laws that apply to your location.

Learn more about Oregon’s laws and penalties through NORML.

Going Into Business


The Oregon Liquor Control Commission is responsible for overseeing the recreational marijuana industry in Oregon, including the management of the licensing process. Currently, the OLCC issues licenses for the following 5 types of marijuana businesses:

  • Marijuana Producers: the growers and harvesters
  • Marijuana Processors: the companies that process plants into usable marijuana and produce marijuana products to be sold in stores
  • Marijuana Wholesalers: the middle-men that buy products from the processors and sell them to retail shops
  • Marijuana Retailers: the shops where recreational marijuana is sold
  • Marijuana Laboratories: facilities that conduct marijuana-related research and testing to ensure consumer safety

There will be fees for both submitting an application for a license and then for the license itself if the application is approved:

  • The application fee varies depending on the type of license being sought but is a minimum of $250
    • It must be paid when the application is submitted
  • Licensing fees also vary depending on type of license, but begin at $1,000 per year
    • Once approval for a license is granted, there is no timeframe for paying the fee
  • Application and licensing fees must be paid by medical marijuana dispensaries converting to recreational stores
  • Licensing fees will be adjusted each year by the OLCC as necessary to cover the actual cost of administering the recreational marijuana program in Oregon

The OLCC is entitled to refuse to approve licenses for applicants for the following reasons:

  • If the applicant has not been an Oregon resident for at least 2 years
  • If they determine the licenses already in place in a given area are too numerous
  • If they determine that demand in the area does not warrant a license or additional licenses
  • If the applicant is deemed to:
    • Consume alcohol, habit-forming drugs, marijuana, or controlled substances “to excess”
    • Have provided false information to the OLCC
    • Have convictions on their record “related to the fitness and ability of the applicant to lawfully carry out activities under the license”
    • Have failed to demonstrate they have the proper finances to successfully fund the business
    • Be “not of good repute and moral character”

For more information on recreational marijuana business licenses in Oregon:


How is recreational marijuana taxed in Oregon?

Of course, one of the chief reasons for legalizing marijuana is to allow the state to collect taxes on it–and in the State of Oregon, marijuana is a heavily taxed product. Here’s how it works:

  • An excise tax is paid by marijuana producers on all marijuana sold to wholesalers
    • Marijuana flowers are taxed at $35 an ounce
    • Marijuana leaves are taxed at $10 an ounce
    • Immature marijuana plants are taxed at $5 per plant
  • The state imposes a 17% sales tax which is paid by the consumer when marijuana is bought at a retail store
    • Local governments can tack on an additional local tax of up to 3% with the approval of voters

Taxes on marijuana can be changed by the State of Oregon based on:

  • Inflation
  • Recommendations by the OLCC to:
    • Maximize revenues
    • Minimize the illegal marijuana industry
    • Discourage underage marijuana use

Where do the tax dollars go?

Currently, marijuana tax revenue is spent on administering state regulation of the cannabis industry, then what’s left is distributed like this:

  • 40% to the state’s Common School Fund, which distributes millions every year to Oregon school districts
  • 20% to mental health, alcoholism, and drug treatment services
  • 15% to the Oregon State Police
  • 10% to city law enforcement agencies
  • 10% to county law enforcement agencies
  • 5% to the Oregon Health Authority for alcohol and drug abuse prevention, early intervention, and treatment services

Growing Pot

Measure 91 allows adults 21 and over in Oregon to grow marijuana for their personal use.

  • You may grow up to 4 plants per household, not per individual.
    • Unlike other states, Oregon’s law makes no stipulation about how many of the plants can be mature or flowering at one time.
    • Any plants being grown must be out of public view and in a secure place.
    • If you rent, this could be problematic if your landlord has rules against marijuana use on his or her property; he or she can ban any cultivation.
  • You can share or give away plants to another adult who is 21 or over, as long as no money changes hands.

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