In 2014, voters in Oregon legalized recreational marijuana via a ballot. In the details of the proposed law, it was made abundantly clear that using marijuana in public places would be strictly forbidden. However, as the years have passed and the state has seen the budding industry thrive within its borders, more and more of its residents are pushing for the law to change. There has been a call to allow for public ingestion of marijuana at “pot lounges” and even in city parks.
Some lawmakers in the state have tried to push this very effort, including the drafting of Senate Bill 307. SB 307 would have legalized the use of marijuana in public venues, as well as at temporary events-such as 420 fairs. The bill died in committee despite backing by Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler and basketball player-turned-advocate Cliff Robinson.
But the failure of SB 307 has not silenced the peoples’ desire to be able to enjoy their favorite plant in public areas. Currently, people do toke it up outside, but it is in violation of state law and can result in a $3,500 fine and even jail time.
“We clearly see a demand for people to be able to consume these products safely and in a legal environment,” says Casey Houlihan, Executive Director of the Oregon Retailers of Cannabis Association. Alex Rogers of the Oregon Medical Marijuana Business Conference in Eugene considers the ban against public smoking to be “backwards,” especially in regard to the ban on smoking lounges.
The thought process behind this is a simple one. Adults twenty-one and older can enjoy alcoholic beverages not only at bars and pubs but also in public places like beaches and parks. So why not marijuana, too?
“Cannabis tourism is a multi-million dollar industry that we should be capitalizing on,” Rogers says in criticism of the ban.
However, innovative and creative Oregon residents have found a loophole around the ban. A party bus, like the ones you’ll see utilized by bachelor parties and other private parties, parked outside of the Flowr of Lyfe dispensary in Eugene and offered adults dabs to be vaped-for free-on April 20th of this year. Because the bus was considered to be private, authorities allowed for this to take place.
But this is not a solution to what many consider to be a problem with Oregon state law. The party bus only allowed for smokers to enjoy the holiday in peace, but does not provide the benefits to businesses that allowing public smoking would.