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If your landlord won’t let you smoke weed in your apartment, where do you go? It’s illegal to consume in public, in parks, on sidewalks, in bars or restaurants. Many tourists encounter the same problem.
The result is lots of confusion and no way for some people to consume a legal product legally. It deserves a legislative fix.
Lawmakers trying to provide that fix by licensing places for “social consumption,” however, face heavy opposition from health experts and government representatives.
Senate Bill 307 originally was drafted to permit licensed locations that allow social consumption of pot at temporary events and in permanent smoking lounges. It was lauded as a solution for those who couldn’t or didn’t want to smoke at home, as a way to promote tourism, and as a way to reduce the disproportionate prosecution of minorities for public marijuana use.
Health officials argued the new rules would violate clean-air regulations, injure those breathing secondhand smoke and normalize pot use in the minds of youngsters. They feared the loss of progress made to reduce tobacco use by banning it from many public places. Some of the bill’s opponents worried about costs to local governments.
A revised version of the bill discussed this week by the Joint Committee on Marijuana Regulation would eliminate temporary event-focused options and require smoking lounges to be smoking porches to allow for ventilation. It would require active opt-in from local governments. Marijuana edibles would not be allowed, and no alcohol or tobacco products could be consumed.
Health officials still opposed the bill at the public hearing, arguing pot smoke is not better than cigarette smoke, and that creating places for social consumption would further normalize this unhealthy behavior, especially for youth.
Marijuana advocates weren’t satisfied but described the revised proposal as “incremental” and seemed ready to accept it as such.
Places for social consumption of marijuana are necessary to solve a problem for renters and tourists. Oregonians didn’t vote to make pot legal only for those who own their homes. Consenting adults are entitled to make these choices for themselves. Moreover, other provisions of Oregon law provide for smoking establishments such as cigar bars.
Although further tweaks may be appropriate to assuage objections, this bill is a reasonable compromise and deserves legislative support.