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High society: Oregonians toke up legally for first time

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Steve Dipaola/Reuters

(Read caption) Marijuana enthusiasts gather before midnight to celebrate the legalization of recreational use of marijuana in Portland, Ore., Tuesday. Smoking marijuana for the sake of getting high became legal in Oregon on Wednesday, fulfilling the first step in a voter-approved initiative that will usher in a network of legal weed retail stores in 2016, similar to the systems already operating in neighboring Washington state and Colorado.

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Oregon has officially joined the ranks of states where it's OK to smoke marijuana for recreational purposes.

Thanks to new legislation that went into effect Wednesday, residents aged 21 and older can now legally smoke recreational marijuana, grow up to four plants, and possess up to eight ounces (227 grams) at home and one ounce outside home, according to the Liquor Control Commission. 

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Driving while high, transporting marijuana out of state, and smoking in public remain illegal, although there were no immediate reports of arrests at Portland's Burnside Bridge, where hundreds of people gathered at midnight Tuesday night to toke up in celebration.

The new laws pave the way for retail shops to sell marijuana by next year: regulators will start accepting business license applications in January, with stores slated for next fall. However, some lawmakers who remain opposed to legalization are pushing for legislation that would allow municipalities where at least 55 percent of voters opposed the November ballot to ban marijuana outlets, says Republican state Sen. Ted Ferrioli. 

"Nervousness about marijuana sort of becoming normed in our society is widespread," Senator Ferrioli told the Associated Press on Tuesday.

Oregon is the fourth state to legalize recreational marijuana use, following in the footsteps of Colorado, Alaska, and Washington state. It's also legal in Washington D.C. 

Legalization advocates say that 2016 is likely to be the next big year, when Arizona, California, Maine, Massachusetts, and Nevada could all vote on legalization. The use of marijuana for medical purposes is legal in 23 states. Polls suggest a majority of Americans support legalizing pot. 

"We are thrilled with the end of adult marijuana prohibition, but we are far from where we need to be," Russ Belville, from the Portland chapter of pro-marijuana group NORML, told Reuters.

Recommended:Legal marijuana experiment in two states: Has it worked?

This report includes material from Reuters.