Are cannabis lounges legal in the Pacific Northwest? What about in other states that have recently legalized marijuana? What does the future for lounges in Portland, OR and Vancouver, WA look like?
Legal cannabis passed in Colorado and Washington state in 2013. And As of November 9, 2016, the use of both recreational and medicinal marijuana has been legalized in additional states of Oregon, Nevada, Maine, Alaska, Massachusetts and California. With an ever growing number of states that have legalized recreational marijuana, “Pot Tourism” is also on the rise. I think that prior to legalization, a lot of people, myself included, envisioned pot cafes on every corner similar to Amsterdam where you could purchase your flower and roll one up and just enjoy a nice cup of coffee with your legally obtained cannabis. That was in fact the only thing that I had to do when I had a 12 hour layover in Amsterdam a few years ago and I still remember it fondly to this day.
Here in Pacific Northwest, that idea was pioneered by Madeline Martinez and the World Famous Cannabis Café in Portland, OR. However, in early 2016 amid threats of daily fines, the WFCC was forced to shut its doors leaving the NW Cannabis Club the only currently operating cannabis club in the Portland area. Lawmakers expanded Oregon’s Indoor Clean Air Act in 2015 to prohibit the use of devices such as vaporizer pens and e-cigarettes in public areas and workplaces. Marijuana was also added to the law, which initially targeted only tobacco. The indoor clean air law includes exemptions for two types of businesses: cigar bars, where patrons may smoke cigars, and smoke shops, where tobacco consumption is allowed. Both kinds of businesses must be certified by the state.
Don’t expect one here in Vancouver, WA anytime soon either, as tucked inside the HB 2136 legislation, a bill hailed by the state’s marijuana industry as a way to make the heavy taxation it faces more palatable, is a provision that outlaws marijuana clubs. The new law makes operating “a club, association, or other business, for profit or otherwise, that conducts or maintains a premises for the primary or incidental purpose of providing a location where members or other persons may keep or consume marijuana on the premises” a class C felony.
Alaska has gone ahead and allowed for indoor public cannabis consumption, and the leading 2016 legalization initiatives in Maine, Massachusetts, and California all allow for some sort of on-site public consumption. So only time will tell what the state level legislation will allow. But it sadly will not happen in WA State anytime soon.
Madeline Martinez said she plans to shift her focus to lobbying for a change to the clean air statute in 2017.