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DON’T SMOKE THE MESSENGER: Don’t Smoke is Back! Please Legalize Social Cannabis Consumption

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Oregonians overwhelmingly approved Measure 91 in 2014, and cannabis was legalized for adults over 21 years old. Dispensaries opened and people from near and far could come to legally purchase world-famous, West Coast, Oregon-grown, craft cannabis. Some of the best to be found anywhere, to be sure. However, Measure 91 expressly prohibits public consumption. And therein lies a huge problem.

The Oregon Indoor Clean Air Act of 1981 (OICAA – updated 2016) prohibits “ . . . smoking, vaporizing, and aerosolizing of inhalants in and around public places . . .” On a bit of a technicality, visitors and most renters are “up the creek without a joint” when it comes to legal consumption in Oregon. The OICAA—whether by design or by happenstance—is a “poor tax”: If you don’t own it, you aren’t free to choose what you do inside your home.

A large part of the incentive to legalize cannabis in Oregon was the tourist tax dollars. Unfortunately, it’s nearly impossible for tourism and cannabis to legally come together in Oregon as there are only a few legal ways to consume cannabis if you don’t own a home. The average consumer is forced to risk illegal activity if they partake in smoking or vaporizing Oregon’s cannabis bounty.

Speaking of the bounty, there are currently over one million unsold pounds in the state’s tracking system! A recent Associated Press article stated, “State regulators say Oregon produced enough recreational cannabis to supply every adult resident with more than 5 ounces (140 grams) of legal marijuana.” Billy Williams, Oregon’s D.A. has targeted the cannabis industry, claiming that we have an overproduction problem. However, short of national legalization or interstate commerce among legal states, what would help move some of that legal product through the system to consumers even faster? Legal social consumption options would, especially for tourists and renters.

In 2017 Senate Bill 307 would have allowed licensed cannabis consumption lounges, to smoke or vape cannabis in a social setting outside their homes. According to a May 2017 article in The Oregonian, officials in Portland “. . . called the bill ‘a commonsense approach’ that would allow tourists and residents to consume legal cannabis, which they can now purchase but may not be able to use.” The same article reported testimony from Cliff Robinson regarding the “racial disparity that exists . . . even in states with legal cannabis, and said establishing safe places for adults to consume marijuana could begin to address this inequity.”

While alcohol and tobacco are both proven health and safety risks to our society, they are also exceptions to the rule when it comes to social consumption of substances culturally deemed dangerous or “mind altering.” Cannabis is both safe and legal, but remains demonized. In short, this is a civil rights issue. Let’s give cannabis consumers and Oregonians the full benefits of cannabis legalization by giving them the same rights as any other consumer. The benefits truly do outweigh the harms on this issue. Please push your local and state legislators to legalize social consumption of cannabis so our tourism industry (which is huge in Oregon and feeds so many other industries) and our cannabis industry can thrive, directly benefiting nearly every person in the state. Thanks to the cannabis industry and consumers for your input on this article!

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