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Oregon Inching Closer to Passing Cannabis Lounge Legislation

Cannabis advocates say public smoking lounges would solve issues for renters and tourists who currently have no place to enjoy their legal cannabis.

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With recreational legalization already on the books in 8 states and making its way to the ballot in a number of states in 2018, cannabis advocates in some parts of the country are already looking towards the next battle. In Oregon, that means the fight for public access cannabis lounges that will allow tourists, renters, and parents to enjoy the marijuana freedoms allowed by legalization. 

Legislation to allow the widespread creation of Amsterdam-style smoking lounges has failed in Colorado, but according to the Portland Tribune, legislators in Oregon are hopeful about the prospect of creating their own communal smoking laws in the Beaver State this year.

Their argument for cannabis lounges, or Senate Bill 307, is based on the language of the state’s original legalization, which currently blocks using cannabis in government housing, residences that house children, and rented properties - an issue that is also troublesome for tourists visiting the state specifically for the novelty of legal weed.

"In reality, this restriction has made the legal consumption of cannabis impossible for many Oregonians who do not own their primary residence, live with small children or those who live in government housing.” Sam Chapman, founder of New Economy Consulting, which advises cannabis industry businesses. “As a result, many otherwise responsible adults are left no other choice but to smoke or vaporize cannabis in public, on sidewalks, in parks, in cars.”

For Senator Elizabeth Steiner Hayward, the smoking lounge legislation is necessary to further protect Oregon’s racial minorities, who, even after recreational legalization, are still arrested at a disproportionate rate for public smoking infractions. Sen. Hayward has argued that cannabis lounges would help reduce those arrests. 

Still, opponents of SB 307 argue that public smoking, no matter the substance, is bad for the lungs and would undermine the state’s Clean Air Act. 

"By allowing for the social consumption of cannabis, Oregon risks the rollback of years of progress related to social norms around smoking," Katrina Hedberg, state health officer and state epidemiologist at the Oregon Health Authority, said.

Under an amended version of SB 307 that is currently in the state’s Joint Committee on Marijuana Regulation, the lounges would have to have one open wall, and could be similar to current smoking patios that allow cigarette smoking at licensed Oregon businesses.