Starting Thursday, marijuana becomes as accessible as a six-pack of beer in Oregon, The Oregonian reports. The first state to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana in 1973 and home to one of the oldest U.S. medical marijuana programs, Oregon joins Colorado and Washington as the only places in the nation where anyone 21 and older can buy marijuana in a state-regulated marketplace. For longtime pot smokers, retail access to a drug they’ve kept quiet about is the end of an era. Not only can Oregonians possess pot without worrying about getting a ticket or worse, they can walk into a shop with cash and walk out with enough dried flowers to roll about a dozen joints.
“You don’t have to whisper about it at a restaurant or a bar,” said Jeff Drake, 64, a longtime recreational consumer who plans to shop at several Portland-area dispensaries Thursday. “You can talk about it openly. People may look at you askance, but get over it. It’s legal.” For critics of legal pot, the start of marijuana sales bolsters the drug’s mainstream appeal and raises a host of public health concerns, from teen use to drugged driving. Many worry Oregon hasn’t done enough to educate people about the risks associated with marijuana use, particularly among youth. “Our concern about when stores roll out is really kids and the availability and the accessibility and normalization and the advertising and marketing,” said Mandi Puckett of Clear Alliance, a nonprofit focused on statewide substance abuse prevention.