America's First Legal Marijuana Cafe Opens in Portland On Friday 13th
Story by by Larry Fitzpatrick - The Oregon Herald
In line were military veterans, grandmothers, young workers, men and women, old and young, black, white and Latino. Gordon Cederholm, 45, of Milwaukie has lived with HIV for 25 years and said he was skeptical about using marijuana as medicine when he got his Oregon card less than a year ago. "At first, I thought: What does being a pothead have to do with it?'" he said. "I didn't know the benefits in marijuana.
Now, I find that I'm a better person when I smoke." Kris Koa, 57, a retired nurse from Gresham, rode the bus from home to see the cafe for herself. She has been using medical marijuana for fibromyalgia and rheumatoid arthritis. This cafe means I now have the freedom to take my own health into my own hands," she said. "This is just the most fabulous thing to happen." The cafe, in the space that once featured Rumpspankers restaurant, looks like nearly every other coffeehouse in town, except that shiny silver Volcano vaporizers are plugged into outlets lining the tiled bar. Wi-Fi is available. Coffee, soft drinks, trays of Marsee Bakery pastries and sandwiches are also offered as ammunition against the inevitable attack of the munchies. The only people permitted in the Cannabis Cafe are those licensed to smoke who also hold membership in the lobbying group Oregon NORML. Patrons will be charged $5 a day. They can bring their own or they can smoke donated marijuana. Oregon law states that medical marijuana may not be sold.
Before the opening, Martinez opened a large box with a dozen jelly jars full of marijuana of various strains donated to the cafe. She opened a jar and held it out for a sniff; the contents smelled sweet, even fruity. "It's called Blueberry," Martinez said, smiling. "It's really good for pain." The cafe had long been a dream of Martinez, executivedirector of Oregon's chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. But long-standing fears of federal arrest "kept us ostracized and turned us into criminals just for using our medicine." Then last month, Attorney General Eric Holder announced that authorities would no longer prosecute licensed users in the 13 states with medical-marijuana programs. Oregon's 10-year-old program is the second in the nation, after California's. Giving heart to smokers this week was the American Medical Association's change of position on marijuana: Having proclaimed for years that it had no medicinal value, the AMA instead said marijuana does have benefits that warrant further study. In Oregon, more than 23,000 people hold medical-marijuana cards and another 14,000 are registered as caregivers or growers. The overwhelming majority of patients are treating chronicsevere pain.
For about a year, Oregon NORML has hosted twice-monthly meetings of cardholders on the second floor of the Northeast Dekum Street building. Eric and Shelly Solomon, who ran the now-closed Rumpspankers, offered the downstairs restaurant space for the cafe. After last week's announcement of the cafe's opening, the neighbors in the Woodlawn neighborhood weren't happy. At a crowded neighborhood association meeting, people complained, among other things, that they could smell smoke from the meetings. Martinez promised to install air filters. Friday afternoon, patients made themselvescomfortable on the soft furniture. "Budtenders" at the bar ground up small portions of marijuana for the vaporizers. A cafe volunteer went to the cafe's front door and opened it for a woman in a wheelchair. The creation of the cafe comes almost a month after the Obama administration told federal attorneys not to prosecute patients who use marijuana for medical reasons or dispensaries in states which have legalized them. About a dozen states, including Oregon, followed California's 1996 move to adopt medical marijuana laws, allowing the drug to be cultivated and sold for medical use. A similar number have pending legislation or ballot measures planned. Pot cafes, known as "coffee shops", are popular in the Dutch city of Amsterdam, where possession of small amounts of marijuana is legal.
Portland's Cannabis Cafe is the first of its kind to open in the United States, according to NORML. Growing, possessing, distributing and smoking marijuana are still illegal under U.S. federal law, which makes no distinction between medical and recreational use. Federal and local law enforcement agencies did not return phone calls from Reuters on Friday seeking comment on the Portland cafe's operations. "To have a place that is this open about its activities, where people can come together and smoke -- I say that's pretty amazing." said Tim Pate, a longtime NORML member, at the cafe. Some locals are hoping it might even be good for business. "I know some neighbors are pretty negative about this place opening up," said David Bell, who works at a boutique that shares space with the cafe. "But I'm withholding judgment. There's no precedent for it. We don't knowwhat to expect. But it would great if it brought some customers into our store."So it seems we are NOW indeed in the future.
Before 1973 possessing small amounts of marijuana was a felony punishable with years in prison. We've come a long way and some may be heard sayin