The clock struck midnight Wednesday and smoke began to pour from the Burnside Bridge as recreational marijuana became legalized for the first time in Oregon.
Pot connoisseurs, advocacy groups and first-time users gathered at the bridge to celebrate the legalization of marijuana at a free party, sponsored by Portland marijuana activists.
Organizers estimated the crowd in the thousands, as the iconic “Portland, Oregon” sign sparkled in the background and many sparked up at midnight. Though Oregon voters approved the legalization measure last November, the law didn’t officially take effect until Wednesday.
“I was waiting until it was legalized, and then I thought I’d try it,” said Robert Funk, who turned out to try pot for the first time. “I was military, so I couldn’t do it (before).”
The buzzing crowd spanned from the entire length of the Burnside Bridge, waiting for free samples and to consume and share weed.
Recreational stores could open as early as Oct. 1.
Portland’s chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws — a nonprofit lobbyist group — sponsored the free bridge pot party as a way around the temporary limit on recreational sales. Various medical dispensaries and advocacy groups pitched in to hand out free samples and seedlings for people to grow at home, which is allowed under Oregon’s new law.
The crowd turned out to be much larger than anticipated.
“Well, you can see we are stretched from edge-to-edge on the Burnside Bridge. The sidewalks are packed,” said Russ Belville, executive director of Portland’s NORML.
Belville initially thought the gathering would be a small group of people localized to the west side bridge landing.
The overwhelming crowd made it hard to gift the free pot, as the organizers quickly ran out of marijuana to pass around. Still, some stragglers held on well past midnight to see if more marijuana would circulate.
Advocates and dispensaries in other parts of the state planned to have similar marijuana giveaways later in the day Wednesday.