So here is a story, published last Friday in The Oregonian, about a pot artist named Greenhand who rolls large, imaginative joints. These joints take every shape from super hero to watermelon, and are apparently fully smokable. Some of the joints are hefty and cost upwards of $10,000. One weighs 4.2 pounds.
The Greenhand story is a fun, breezy profile, but it fails to mention a piece of information that seems sort of important: under Oregon law, Greenhand, like everyone else, is allowed a maximum of eight ounces of usable marijuana in his home, and to carry up to one ounce in public. Possession of the watermelon joint, for example, would be a Class A misdemeanor under ORS 475B.315 and would come with up to a year in prison and a $6,250 fine. And selling the joints with no license is a whole other issue.
The Oregonian styles itself as a major daily newspaper, and it has won its share of awards. Though a favorite pastime of many Oregonians is criticizing the newspaper, The Oregonian remains the statewide standard for formal, daily news. Yet, the Greenhand profile opens by advising the reader that she can pick up a joint “at local weed stores … or get a hold of Tony Greenhand … who will roll you something that costs upwards of $10,000.” The story implies that either option is permissible, and the only question is cost. In all, it reads like piece from industry rags like High Times or Dope.
When marijuana became fully legal in Oregon, the early reportage focused on rules, policy and program structure. The Oregon Liquor Control Commission (OLCC) launched its “What’s Legal” campaign, designed to apprise Oregonians about changes in the law. Once the rules were established, the scope of news coverage naturally expanded to include human interest stories, like Greenhand’s. But responsible journalism should not lead readers to believe anything goes with Oregon weed, when it most certainly does not.
Cannabis is still a heavily regulated substance in Oregon. The fact that cannabis is now “legal” does not excuse private actors from exceeding program limits, selling recreational marijuana without OLCC licensure, or advertising the sale of pot across state lines. As cannabis business lawyers who constantly push our clients toward compliance, we would like to see mainstream news media take a responsible approach to pot in Oregon – even while still having fun. We do believe, after all, that the Greenhand joints are truly something to behold.