I recently had an enjoyable time at the NW Cannabis Club, one of the only non-residential places in Portland where you can—for a membership fee—legally smoke weed. In a recent column, I decried the lack of other such establishments and laid blame at the feet of the OLCC and the city of Portland, because they make the rules.
Then I got an email from Brandon Goldner, coordinator for the Cannabis Program at the City of Portland. Was he writing to tell me not to worry—that he was from the gubbermint, and here to help?
Actually, yes! And he wanted to help me get my facts straight. Goldner clarified the city’s position of several matters, which led to us discussing other common misperceptions about where the city of Portland stands on consumption of cannabis outside the home.
CANNABUZZ: What am I getting wrong?
GOLDNER: The City of Portland doesn’t have any rules on the books about where or where not to consume cannabis; more importantly, Portland supports spaces for social consumption of cannabis! Mayor Ted Wheeler and Commissioner Chloe Eudaly wrote a letter in support of Senate Bill 307, a 2016 Oregon bill that would have created a framework for social consumption. Staff from the city’s Cannabis Program testified in support of SB 307 as well. We want legal, regulated cannabis consumption spaces for consumers in our community and to encourage cannabis tourism.
While we may be limited by state law and administrative rule, we can provide guidance on what’s legal today, and advocate lawmakers to change what can be legal tomorrow. This is also an issue of equity, as those who were most likely to receive citations for consuming cannabis in public were communities of color.
So why aren’t there more cannabis clubs?
Given current state law, consumption of cannabis is not allowed in a “public place.” A public place is defined by ORS 475B as “a place to which the general public has access.” Oregon’s Indoor Clean Air Act also prohibits consumption of cannabis and tobacco in an “enclosed area open to the public.”
I love the NW Cannabis Club, and it seems like a safe part of the community. Why are they permitted, but others are not?
Places that are considered “private,” such as private clubs, may not fall under either the definition of a “public place” or an “enclosed area open to the public.”
Can you see how it seems hypocritical that the city charges not-inconsequential fees for growers, producers, and dispensaries—not to mention collects a 3 percent sales tax on cannabis products—and yet penalizes anyone seeking to consume outside the confines of their own privately-owned home?
Again, we WANT legal, regulated spaces outside the home for adults to consume cannabis! The city’s Cannabis Program has no jurisdiction over where folks consume cannabis, unless it relates to activity taking place at or near a cannabis business that falls under our jurisdiction. We have never penalized or punished anyone for the consumption of cannabis outside the home, and we never will. Public consumption is also considered a low priority for local law enforcement. The regulatory authority for the Oregon Indoor Clean Air Act falls to the Environmental Health Division of Multnomah County.
If the cannabis industry is truly an economic engine, why stifle it? It seems the city could generate much-needed revenue through licensing and taxing consumption spaces.
The city doesn’t want to stifle social consumption spaces—quite the opposite. We have been having conversations with folks in the cannabis industry, community members, and folks at the county and the state about this important issue. Portland will support smart, thoughtful ideas for social consumption, just as we did last year with SB 307.
Denver and Las Vegas are exploring cannabis lounges, so this wouldn’t exactly be groundbreaking, especially as San Francisco has numerous existing lounges, albeit on the medical side.
Agreed. Portland believes we should take the opportunity NOW to develop thoughtful, reasonable regulations to allow for the consumption of cannabis outside of the home. This will not only bolster tourism, but provide options for consumers in our community, ensure that consumers have places to consume cannabis where they won’t be prosecuted, and establish standards and best practices to ensure consumption is done in a safe way with as little impact as possible.
Where can people ask questions or make suggestions to the city about cannabis regulation?
Our program needs to be asked critical questions about what we do and why. Asking those questions is a great way to make sure that our rules and regulations are changing and evolving as the industry grows, and as we learn more about the impacts of local and state cannabis rules. Folks can always reach out to the City of Portland’s Cannabis Program at 503-823-WEED (yes, seriously), email at email@example.com, or drop me a line personally at Brandon.Goldner@portlandoregon.gov.