Oregon Marijuana Lounges: Not Gonna Happen

This summer, we wrote about how Oregon law on smoking pot in public was hazy. At that time, cannabis smoking lounges were operating in Portland, and it was generally understood this was OK under Portland’s recreational marijuana regime. Due to some new administrative rules for the amended Oregon Indoor Clear Air Act (ICAA), this will no longer be the case.

Cannabis lounges in Oregon. Not gonna happen.
Cannabis lounges in Oregon. Not gonna happen.

The Oregon Health Authority (OHA) promulgated the new rules this September, pursuant to HB 2546 and they take effect on January 1, 2016. OHA is the same agency overseeing medical marijuana in Oregon, and the rules do contain an exception for healthcare facilities to allow “inhalant delivery systems” on site for administering medical marijuana.

Aside from that narrow exception, the rules provide that inhalant delivery systems can no longer be used in public area work places. Because the ICAA defines inhalant delivery systems as “devices that can be used to deliver nicotine, cannabinoids or other substances” the state’s many vape lounges also will be required to disallow consumption on site. And because the state of Oregon considers work places to include locales staffed by volunteers, even co-op type lounges are not exempt. In fact, businesses will be required to post signs reading “no smoking or vaping” at all entrances and exits.

The amended ICAA still contains its “smoke shop certification” program, whereby smoke shops may apply to allow on-site consumption. However, this program does not apply to the “smoking, aerosolizing or vaporizing of inhalants that are not tobacco products in smoke shops.” So, unlike cigarette shops and cigar bars, marijuana lounges apparently have no shot, despite some dubious reportage to the contrary.

It seems strange that the ICAA allows for limited consumption of tobacco products indoors, but not marijuana. Before people get too excited about this, it is worth noting that certified smoke shops must be primarily engaged in the sale of products and goods for use off premises, and only have a maximum seating capacity of four people, and no food or beverages, and no social gaming. But still.

The new rules are consistent with what has happened in Washington and Colorado (see our takes here and here), and with the general, decades-long drift against public smoking in American life. In Oregon, these rules are going to create roadblocks for low-income marijuana users, like those who live in smoke-free public housing, as well as high-income people, like tourists who visit the state and cannot smoke in their hotels. As a corollary, at least our clients who manufacture edibles should benefit.

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