From Couch to Café Oregon legislators and activists are working to legalize cannabis consumption lounges

Hazy bars with fancy vapes, pipes and joints being passed around or served at a bar—that’s  probably what most folks imagined when recreational cannabis was legalized. But so far, that hasn’t been the case in most states.

Other than in Colorado, where lawmakers have come up with some clever workarounds, the only place cannabis consumers in legal states can consume cannabis without being on the wrong side of the law is in their own homes. And that’s only if you’re a homeowner, or have a landlord kind enough to allow it.

Oregon is looking to change that. Sen. Lew Frederick of Portland, along with a group known as the New Revenue Coalition, have begun crafting a bill to put forth to Oregon legislators known as the Common Consumption Bill. The bill would allow cannabis cafés, where of-age folks can publicly consume cannabis in a safe, controlled environment.

The bill has gained support from a wide variety of cannabis advocate groups and businesses, such as Oregon NORML, Oregon Retailers of Cannabis Association, East Fork Cultivars, HiFi Farms and many more. Madeline Martinez of Oregon NORML expressed her support for the bill.

“Cannabis consumers deserve a place to use their cannabis safely and legally. This is a social justice issue that disproportionately affects the poor, patients and communities of color.” Martinez explained.

“Cannabis consumers deserve a place to use their cannabis safely and legally. This is a social justice issue that disproportionately affects the poor, patients and communities of color.”

 

Frederick isn’t the only legislator who has expressed public support of cannabis cafés. Rep. Rob Nosse of District 42 Portland has let it be known that he also thinks cannabis consumers who may not own a home and live in a smoke-free rental, should have somewhere they can legally consume cannabis without risking eviction.

“Many landlords do not want tenants to smoke in their homes/apartments. Honestly, I understand that concern,” Nosse told CULTURE. “When I used to smoke, I did it outside. I just think we need places for renters and others who want to consume cannabis socially to be able to do so. Hopefully, we can find a way to make this happen and do it in a way that maintains the Indoor Clean Air Act.”

Oregon’s Indoor Clean Air Act (ICAA) “prohibits smoking in the workplace and within 10 feet of all entrances, exits and accessibility ramps that lead to and from an entrance or exit, windows that open and air-intake vents,” according to the State of Oregon’s website.

In 2016, the act was revised to include vaporizers. Of course, there are exceptions to this rule.

Exceptions include:

  • Smoking tobacco in certified smoke shops
  • Smoking cigars in certified cigar bars
  • Smoking in hotel or motel rooms where smoking is allowed (smoking rooms may not exceed 25 percent of sleeping rooms)
  • Smoking of non-commercial tobacco for American Indian ceremonial purposes

 

It seems as if smoking cannabis in a certified cannabis bar could easily be added to the list of exceptions. Oregon’s next legislative session starts Jan. 22 and runs until June. It will be interesting to see if legislators are willing to make an exception to the ICAA for cannabis cafes.

Detractors from the bill worry about public health and safety, as any secondhand smoke can be considered harmful. Advocates argue that without designated areas for adults to legally consume cannabis, it’s forcing them to do it in streets and parks. Anyone who visits parks and streets in Portland knows that cannabis use in public is a reality. While cannabis cafés may not curb this entirely, it would likely diminish it. Because most adults would rather be consuming cannabis in a safe, dry and warm indoor environment with their peers, rather than out on the streets.

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