Public consumption spaces

Bars that serve alcohol are common in Oregon, but public places for the consumption of marijuana remain illegal. This may change, however, as at least one state legislator, Lew Frederick, has announced that he intends to allow for cannabis cafes both at dispensaries and as separate establishments.

The proposed legislation would also allow tours, “similar to those conducted by the state’s microbrewery and winery industry,” delivery services, and consumption at public events, presumably with an amount of regulation similar to that of cigarettes and alcohol. Frederick’s idea for a new law has yet to be written into legislation, however, so the soonest a cannabis cafe bill could be introduced is 2019.

Sam Chapman, a consultant who lives in Oregon, is an advocate for public consumption spaces. He says:

Under the current Oregon Indoor Clean Air Act, cannabis is not allowed to be consumed inside. This means that unless you own your home, chances are your lease agreement forbids the consumption of cannabis. We are also starting to see leases that simply forbid the possession of cannabis, even for medical patients. From your average adult cannabis consumer who just wants to be a law abiding citizen, to folks who live under strict leases or section 8 housing where smoking is forbidden, to tourists who have come to Oregon to see what our craft cannabis scene is all about, there is a huge demand for legal places to consume cannabis.

The issue of public consumption is closely tied to housing. For those who own their own homes, the issue is simply not as pressing as it is for those who cannot consume in their apartments. As in Oregon, Canada is facing a similar problem, as public consumption of tobacco and marijuana is illegal in most places. Holland, however, has been dealing with the issue since the 1970s.

Amsterdam’s Coffeeshops

Coffeeshops, as they are called, began to open in the 1970s in Amsterdam as police looked the other way. Soon, they proliferated so much, and attracted the kinds of nuisance behaviors that are similar to liquor stores, that in the 1990s the government stepped in and started to regulate shops and shut some down. Now a smaller number of shops operate with an understanding that the following are not allowed: behaviors that bother the neighbors, sale of hard drugs, advertising, sales to minors, and sales of more than five grams. In addition, zoning rules forbid coffeeshops near schools. If standards such as these can work for Amsterdam, they may also work for Canada and Oregon.

Chapman points out that legalization came to Oregon through voter initiative, and so if the legislature delays a public consumption law for too long, voters may once again make the decision on their own. He says: “With 580+ retail stores in the state now, we are confident in our ability to launch a successful grassroots signature-collecting campaign.”

Denver

Colorado is another state where adult use is legal, public consumption is not, and the legislature has not been successful in getting a public consumption law passed. (In Colorado as in Holland, busloads of tourists looking to get high annoyed residents.) Denver, however, may soon legalize public consumption. The law under consideration would allow businesses–almost any kind of business that does not serve alcohol, including, for example, bookstores–could apply for permits to allow public consumption. Smoking would not be allowed, as it violates the Clean Air Act, but vaping would be. Las Vegas and West Hollywood are two other cities that are looking to implement social consumption.

In a country full of bars, it seems unlikely that social consumption spaces will never appear. And just as putting a beer in a paper bag has given police in poor neighborhoods an excuse to look the other way, so too public consumption of marijuana, if the concerns of neighbors are addressed, may soon be more tolerated. And Oregon, as it has with adult use, may soon take the lead in the United States in legalizing cannabis cafes.

What do you think? Will Oregon be the first state to legalize cannabis cafes? Leave a comment below.

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