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Group Launches Effort To Allow Cannabis Cafes In Oregon

<p>New Revenue Coalition supports Oregon lawmakers giving people public places to smoke cannabis.</p>

Kristian Foden-Vencil


New Revenue Coalition supports Oregon lawmakers giving people public places to smoke cannabis.

Walk down any downtown Portland street and it’s not unusual to smell cannabis.

That’s despite the fact current law says people can only smoke it in private.

Sam Chapman with the New Revenue Coalition says Oregon lawmakers need to give people public places to smoke, especially since many have rental agreements that don’t allow them to smoke on the property.

“On top of that you also have folks who are coming from other states to explore our new craft cannabis industry, that simply don’t know where they can consume the legal product they just purchased. So where do they often go? On the streets, in parks, in their car,” he said.

“That is not in the best interest of public safety.”

Chapman said the New Revenue Coalition is having a lobby day in early December and a fundraising event in Portland on Dec. 13.

Perhaps Chapman’s biggest hurdle will be persuading lawmakers to permit waivers to the Indoor Clean Air Act. Oregon’s public health agencies have spent decades getting tobacco smoke out of pubs and restaurants.

Dr. Tom Jeanne, an epidemiologist at the Oregon Health Authority Public Health Division, said the agency doesn't take positions for or against legislative proposals, but he’s concerned about the health effects cannabis cafes could have.

“Our responsibility is to Oregonians to create a safe, healthy, environment for all Oregonians where they can live, work, learn and play to their fullest potential,” he said.

“One way we can do that is by maintaining the Indoor Clean Air act which protects Oregonians from the health risks of secondhand smoke.”

Jeanne said cannabis smoke is not harmless and neither is the vapor from vape pens.

He said cannabis cafes will likely normalize the use of cannabis, especially among children.

“That’s a concern for increasing youth use of these products,” Jeanne said.

Cigar bars and hookah lounges have waivers from the Indoor Clean Air act, allowing people to smoke indoors. Such establishments were grandfathered in when the act was passed.

But they're also restricted to tobacco smoke only. Meaning cannabis smoke would be a change-of-use significant enough to negate a waiver.

Copyright 2018 Oregon Public Broadcasting

Kristian Foden-Vencil is a veteran journalist/producer working for Oregon Public Broadcasting. He started as a cub reporter for newspapers in London, England in 1988. Then in 1991 he moved to Oregon and started freelancing. His work has appeared in publications as varied as The Oregonian, the BBC, the Salem Statesman Journal, Willamette Week, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, NPR and the Voice of America. Kristian has won awards from the Associated Press, Society of Professional Journalists and the Association of Capitol Reporters and Editors. He was embedded with the Oregon National Guard in Iraq in 2004 and now specializes in business, law, health and politics.