Photo: Toke of the Town
Cannabis clubs in Oregon will be forced to either shut down or pay a $500 fine for violating the Indoor Clean Air Act. Effective January 1st, lounges and clubs in Oregon will no longer be able to allow cannabis smoking or vaping. Local lawmakers have expanded Oregon's Clean Air Act to prohibit vaporizers and cannabis consumption.
Oregon's Indoor Clean Air Act was implemented back in 2009, however, the law originally targeted tobacco clubs only. The language has been expanded to also exclude vaping and cannabis consumption in general. The rules are enforced by the Oregon Health Authority. Recently, Karen Girard, a state health official said the organization hasn't consulted the Department of Justice regarding the matter "because the law hasn't gone into effect yet." Fraternal companies such as the Elks club, however, are permitted to allow tobacco smoking. "The agency's position is that businesses and organizations throughout Oregon won't be treated differently than any other business," she said.
Madeline Martinez is owner of the World Famous Café in Portland. "All of the people who come here are going to go into their cars and smoke or go into parks and smoke," Martinez told the Oregonian. "Where do they go? What do we do? We'll just have masses of people walking down the street imbibing. To me, that's a nuisance. That's not what we want. That is not what Oregonians signed up for when we passed [Measure 91]."
The World Famous Café does not sell cannabis. Patrons of the café bring their own cannabis. The restaurant-like café doesn't offer cannabis, however, there's a collective less than a block away. Admission is $10. The new rules could mark the beginning of the end for clubs like the World Famous Café. "It's a nightmare, I'm going to have to close my doors," Martinez said.
Most cannabis clubs attract the elderly, tourists, or people who are just not able to smoke at home. The Northwest Cannabis Club in Portland caters to a steady flow of tourists. Don Skakie is a spokesman for the Northwest Cannabis Club. "We have tour groups that want to stop by and have their experience out there purchasing it and then they need somewhere to go," explained Skakie. "They can't go to their hotel room or the park. They certainly don't want to go to a back alley."
Under the new rules, cigar clubs and smoke shops are off the hook. Cigar club owners say they have faced the threat of closure over the Indoor Clean Air Act as well. "There's fear we always are next," said Jason Lee, owner of Broadway Cigar Company. "They constantly keep coming after us trying to shut us down." Lee won three separate cases against the OHA and his company remains open.
Now is the time to see whether cannabis clubs in Oregon will fade away, or if they will follow cigar companies and fight the regulations set forth by the Oregon Health Authority.