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Oregon Interest Group Seeks Legalization Of On-Premise Marijuana Use

January 9, 2019

A public interest group in Oregon called the New Revenue Coalition is seeking to persuade state lawmakers to legalize cannabis smoking in some licensed public places, including cafés. Currently, Oregon only allows people to smoke marijuana in private.

Under the proposed plan, cities and counties would opt into a system that would provide waivers to the state’s Indoor Clean Air Act, enabling licensed businesses to permit marijuana use, according to New Revenue Coalition co-director Anthony Johnson. Local governments not wishing to participate wouldn’t be obligated to do so, he says, and the licensed establishments would need to provide appropriate ventilation and check IDs for patrons’ ages, just as the state’s cigar bars do.

One state senator has already said he’ll introduce the bill this year, but passage doesn’t look likely in 2019. “We’re not naive to the fact that amending the Indoor Clean Air Act will be a tough climb in the Oregon legislature,” Johnson says. Democrats currently hold a super-majority in both houses, and the act is their “crowning achievement,” he says.

In addition, public health advocates have concerns about the effects of cannabis smoke, and neighboring Washington state doesn’t permit cannabis cafés. The Oregon Restaurant & Lodging Association hasn’t yet taken a stand on the proposal.

If the legislature doesn’t act, the New Revenue Coalition will try to get a proposal on the ballot for next year, following the model of the 2014 ballot measure that legalized recreational marijuana use in Oregon.—Christopher Solomon

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