Oregon: Cannabis Cafe Opens In Portland
By Anne Saker, The Oregonian
Oregon opened another chapter in U.S. marijuana history when at 4:20 p.m. Friday, about three dozen people christened the nation's first cafe for licensed residents to sit down, sip coffee and smoke marijuana.
"Welcome to a place of our own," said Madeline Martinez, a leader in the state's medical marijuana movement and the leading force pushing to open the Cannabis Cafe in Portland. "Welcome to freedom."
Excited patrons spilled down the outside steps at 700 N.E. Dekum St. as the cafe prepared to open at the appointed hour -- "420" being slang for using marijuana. 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.
cafe_9.JPGTorsten Kjellstrand/The OregonianJars of donated pot line the shelves behind the bar at the Cannabis Cafe, waiting to be smoked by licensed users. Oregon law says medical marijuana may not be sold. 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 smoke donated marijuana. Oregon law says medical marijuana may not be sold.
Before the opening, Martinez unloaded a large box with a dozen jelly jars full of marijuana of various strains that had been donated to the cafe. She opened one 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, executive director 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 chronic severe 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 themselves comfortable 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.
|Cannabis Cafe opens for medical marijuana patients in Northeast Portland|