The Early Disappointments of Cannabis Legalization in Oregon

Are we sure weed is even legal?

For 10 months now, cannabis has been legal in Oregon. Adults can buy flower, or grow their own, and medical patients still have access to other products without dosage or potency restrictions. Some have had cannabis-related convictions expunged. These are all good things, yes. But is this what you thought legalization would look like? Personally, I've felt some disappointments.

It's hard to find a place to legally smoke…

I'd toke a joint while walking across a bridge at sunset, but that's a civil violation if caught by a police officer.

I'd toke in the park, on a bench or under a tree away from others, but the city put an end to that.

I'd toke in my apartment, but I'm a renter and that's not allowed per my rental contract.

I'd toke at a private club opened expressly for people to consume cannabis inside, but smoke complaints from a neighbor led to the closure of the World Famous Cannabis Cafe.

I'd toke at a public event with a special-event permit, but any property or business consorting with cannabis risks a crackdown from the Oregon Liquor Control Commission.

I'd toke at a private business, but that's frowned upon, even at businesses that thrive on cannabis-advertising revenue.

…or even a place to vape.

I'd just vape—loose-leaf vaporizers cook the cannabinoids out of flower at temperatures below burning, meaning there's no harmful smoke released—except the state doesn't understand the significant science-based difference.

Thanks to overzealous changes made to Oregon's Indoor Clean Air Act by undereducated legislators, vapor isn't allowed inside, either, making it impossible for renters to legally consume anything but edibles. This makes no sense given there are no concerns about secondhand smoke, and the faint odor that results dissipates almost immediately. But legalization has shown me that we live in a too-often backward, anti-science state.

Cannabis remains stigmatized by people who should know better.

I imagined a world of legalization that would bring cannabis out of the shadows and allow everyone to embrace it—or at least treat it like cigarettes or booze, both of which have proved to be far more harmful. That has not happened.

When will Oregonians stop treating cannabis like the dangerous drug it never was and its users like the lawbreakers we never were?

Neither the state nor some "progressives" seem to acknowledge that cannabis should never have been prohibited. Rather than taking a "conservative" approach to "smart" legalization with controls designed to maximize tax revenue, we should be looking at all cannabis regulation as a justice issue, dismantling oppressive laws as quickly and completely as possible.

Too many people have their greasy hands out, but aren't giving back.

The cannabis business scene is friendly and cooperative. People give what they have and take what they need. It's still largely self-regulating and fundamentally honest. I've loved being part of the circle.

The world at large, not so much. Oregon businesses and the state have both sought to cash in on cannabis without so much as dropping their sneer of contempt, let alone reinvesting.

Frankly, it's insulting for an industry that's already brought in more than $800,000 in tax money to the state—without a single significant negative side effect—to still have to plead its case on every issue as though it's a criminal asking for clemency.

And it's unconscionable that any bank or business would not acknowledge the money cannabis has pumped into the rest of our economy. If your business did well last year, or if you got a raise, or if your employer hired a new person to help with the workload, dig deep enough and you probably have cannabis to thank.

If you're such a person, maybe take 4/20 as a moment to feel some gratitude for all cannabis has given Oregon in the last 10 months—then call your state representative to request better treatment of this industry.

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