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Oregon Marijuana Business Groups Push to Allow Consumption in Public Venues

Friday, November 20, 2015


Advocates say that marijuana smokers should have a public place to consume their cannabis—just as there are bars and cigar lounges; via wikimedia commons

After the passage of Measure 91 and the beginning of early retail sales, the recreational marijuana market is booming, according to industry leaders, who told GoLocal last month that sales have doubled since stores could begin selling to the general public. Now, marijuana business groups are pushing for more growth by allowing business owners to let customers consume marijuana inside their walls.

Currently, Oregonians can only smoke marijuana while on private property. In October, Sgt. Peter Simpson, with the Portland Bureau of Police, told GoLocal that patrol officers will still be on the lookout for those who smoke in public places, such as parks, streets or outside bars or restaurants.

Casey Houlihan, Director of the Oregon Retailers of Cannabis Association, told GoLocal that while there is no law explicitly forbidding a so-called “cannabis club,” which allows customers to consume marijuana in a bar or coffee shop style setting, he would like to see regulation that would allow those businesses to flourish

“There’s nothing explicitly illegal about it right now,” Houlihan said of entrepreneurs that may be interested in opening such a spot. “What we need is regulation, though, so we can see the way these businesses should operate and how they can succeed.”

“The Next Step in Normalization”

Houlihan said that allowing businesses focused around the consumption of marijuana are not unprecedented, citing the popular existence of bars and cigar lounges.

“This is the next step in normalization for the industry,” Houlihan said. “There are businesses that allow you to come and consume alcohol or tobacco, and now that it is a recreationally legal product, people should be able to do the same with cannabis.”

Donald Morse, Director of the Oregon Cannabis Business Council, agreed. 

“People want to be able to go and enjoy cannabis around like-minded people like you can do at a bar,” Morse told GoLocal. “There’s also plenty of precedent for it with cigar lounges, where people can sit together and enjoy a cigar.”

Medical marijuana patient Mayana Bonaparte agreed that marijuana coffee shops should be accepted as part of the culture surrounding the legalized substance. 

“Politics are such a big part of this,” Bonaparte said. “As you wouldn’t want an abortion clinic in a neighborhood with a lot of churches, you wouldn’t want a marijuana coffee shop in a conservative city. Portland is the most liberal pocket of Oregon, so it would be a great place to experiment.”

An Economic Boon?

Houlihan said he believes that allowing cannabis-consumption businesses such as cannabis cafes would bring increased revenues and jobs. He cited the performance of a few cannabis cafes that were already in operation, such as Portland’s World Famous Cannabis Cafe.

“The businesses that are operating this way already, I believe, are doing fairly well,” Houlihan said. “I think this could be something that would go hand-in-hand with what we’ve seen from increased marijuana sales.”

Bonaparte agreed.

“I could definitely see Portland being the most viable city for Amsterdam-type coffee shops,” Bonaparte said. “Marijuana is much healthier for people and the environment than substances we do use in public like alcohol or tobacco.”

Morse begged to differ. He said that he sees cannabis cafes achieving local success and that the Portland metro area could support "maybe five or seven different clubs in different parts of the city and the area." He did not, however, believe that cannabis clubs would be come big business.

“I think it’s going to be a neighborhood thing,” Morse said. “It won’t be that there are big companies or chains doing this. It will be a local place, a place that people in the area know of and can visit when they’d like to enjoy cannabis with other, like-minded people.”


Related Slideshow: 20 Things You Need to Know About Buying Pot in Oregon

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Employers Still Can—And Will—Drug Test

Many of the state’s largest employers, including Fred Meyer, Intel, Bi-Mart and Dairy Queen, will still test for marijuana, despite its new legal status. Companies that employ heavy equipment operators are required to buy insurance, and typically require drug testing.

Often, even companies that employ workers who operate machinery while simultaneously employing workers who do not will test, as the company will receive a lower monthly deductible if they test all of their employees across the board.

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Only a Quarter-Ounce per Customer, Please

Dispensaries will only be allowed to sell a quarter-ounce of marijuana per customer, per day. Residents are allowed different amounts for travel and home storage.

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Child Proof Packaging

Dispensaries, in addition to their limits on sales per person, also must package their recreational marijuana in a particular way. It must be placed in an opaque bag that is smell and child-proof.

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Can I Grow Cannabis at My House?

Those with a green thumb will be permitted to grow their own marijuana for private consumption. They are only allowed four plants per person, however, and each must be obscured from public view.

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How Much Can I Have at My House?    

Residents will be allowed to keep plenty of dry marijuana (flowers or leaves that are ready to be smoked) in their home. They are allowed to store eight ounces, more than thirty times the purchasing limits, in their home.

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How Much Can I Travel With?

Traveling restrictions are stricter than regulations for home storage. Adults are able to travel with up to one ounce, or four times the purchase limit, on their person.

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Driving Under the Influence

Unlike the Washington law, which included attached regulations concerning driving impairment, Oregon’s law has more room for interpretation. 

Driving under the influence of marijuana is classified as a Class B Traffic Violation, which carries a presumptive fine of $260 and is not to exceed maximum fine of $2,000. The Oregon Liquor Control Commission has been tasked with researching the subject of drugged driving and presenting its finding to the Oregon Legislative Assembly no later than January 2017.

After reviewing the OLCC report, the state legislative assembly will decide whether passing more extensive driving regulations will be necessary.

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No Smoking in Public

Yes, marijuana is legal. No, that does not mean you can light up in the middle of the street. Consumption is only allowed out of the public view.

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Where will the New Tax Money Go?

Where will the tax money go?

Measure 91, the ballot measure passed last year that legalized marijuana in Oregon, stipulates that the tax revenue collected from recreational sales will be divided up in the following ways:

40 percent- Common School Fund
20 percent- Mental Health Alcoholism and Drug Services
15 percent- Oregon State Police
10 percent- Counties for enforcement of the measure
10 percent- Cities for enforcement of the measure
5 percent- Oregon Health Authority for drug abuse prevention

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Where You Can Buy Marijuana

Already licensed medical marijuana dispensaries will be allowed to sell recreationally beginning on October 1, although not every dispensary will sell recreationally.

For a full list of those that have been approved to sell to the public, click here.

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Not Everywhere

While marijuana is now legal for recreational use in the state of Oregon, some individual communities have passed laws banning recreational marijuana facilities from opening. Consumption will still be legal in these areas, but sales will not.

For a full list of cities that have passed these bans, click here.

Photo: Downtown Baker City; via Wikimedia Commons

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What to Do at a Dispensary

First time at a dispensary? No worries, said Meghan Walstatter, Owner of Pure Green Dispensary. Just ask plenty of questions to staff to ease all of your concerns. 

Photo: Pure Green Dispensary

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Budtenders-Bartenders for Weed

Have questions as you make your purchase? No problem, just ask your friendly budtender. The cannabis industry’s answer to bartenders, budtenders are knowledgeable about the different strains and types of marijuana and their effects and are ready and eager to help novice smokers.

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Cannabis Indica

Indica, along with its sister sativa, are one of the two main types of cannabis. Each has their own unique effects on its user. Indica strains are known for relieving physical pain and giving users a sleepy, lethargic feeling.

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Cannabis Sativa

Sativa strains are the counter to indica strains.They are known for as a more mental stimulation, giving users more creative and sometimes, more focus

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The best of both worlds. At least, that’s what hybrids claim to be. They combine the properties of an indica strain and a sativa strain, by allowing users to feel relaxed, but not sleepy.

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Bring Cash

While some dispensaries do accept credit card, most do not, according to Leah Maurer, Co-chair of Women’s Grow. Make sure to bring some cash if you plan to purchase some cannabis today.

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How to Store your Cannabis

Concerned about storing your new marijuana in your home around your family? Maurer said to store it as you would alcohol or prescription drugs, away from the reach of children and teenagers.

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Don’t Cross State Lines

It will still be illegal to transport marijuana across state lines. That restriction even includes those crossing the Columbia River into Washington, where marijuana is also legal. Marijuana is classified as a Scheduled I controlled substance, meaning that anyone transporting it across line is prosecutable by Federal agencies

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Make Sure to Talk to Your Kids

It's likely that children and young adults will see more cannabis, and cannabis consumption, now that recreational sales have begun. Maurer said to make sure you have an honest, frank conversation about the benefits and consequences of the substance.


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