First U.S. marijuana cafe opens in Portland

By chillinwill · Nov 14, 2009 · ·
  1. chillinwill
    The United States' first marijuana cafe opened on Friday, posing an early test of the Obama administration's move to relax policing of medical use of the drug.

    The Cannabis Cafe in Portland, Oregon, is the first to give certified medical marijuana users a place to get hold of the drug and smoke it -- as long as they are out of public view -- despite a federal ban.

    "This club represents personal freedom, finally, for our members," said Madeline Martinez, Oregon's executive director of NORML, a group pushing for marijuana legalization.

    "Our plans go beyond serving food and marijuana," said Martinez. "We hope to have classes, seminars, even a Cannabis Community College, based here to help people learn about growing and other uses for cannabis."

    The cafe -- in a two-story building which formerly housed a speak-easy and adult erotic club Rumpspankers -- is technically a private club, but is open to any Oregon residents who are NORML members and hold an official medical marijuana card.

    Members pay $25 per month to use the 100-person capacity cafe. They don't buy marijuana, but get it free over the counter from "budtenders". Open 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., it serves food but has no liquor license.

    There are about 21,000 patients registered to use marijuana for medical purposes in Oregon. Doctors have prescribed marijuana for a host of illnesses, including Alzheimer's, diabetes, multiple sclerosis and Tourette's syndrome.

    On opening day, reporters invited to the cafe could smell, but were not allowed to see, people smoking marijuana.

    "I still run a coffee shop and events venue, just like I did before we converted it to the Cannabis Cafe, but now it will be cannabis-themed," said Eric Solomon, the owner of the cafe, who is looking forward to holding marijuana-themed weddings, film festivals and dances in the second-floor ballroom.


    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 know what to expect. But it would great if it brought some customers into our store."

    By Dan Cook
    November 14, 2009

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  1. chillinwill
    Soaking up the atmosphere at America’s first 'Cannabis Café'

    At first glance it could be any other coffee shop in America. Chocolate croissants are stacked behind the counter and patrons lounge on sofas. There are, however, a few crucial differences.

    A shelf is lined with large glass jars, containing what appear to be plant samples. The customers do not have coffee pots in front of them, but “vapourisers” with digital readouts indicating when the plant samples have been heated to precisely 375F, at which point a thin mist rises from them into large transparent plastic bags. The patrons “sip” on the bags using the kind of valves that you might see on a diver’s oxygen tank.

    Above their heads hangs a sign that explains everything: “Cannabis Café”. Opened only a few days ago, this establishment, in Portland, Oregon, is America’s first and only legal marijuana coffee shop.

    How long it survives is entirely up to the Obama Administration, which, for the time being, has instructed its Attorney-General, Eric Holder, to leave the policing of marijuana to individual states.

    “Prohibition didn’t work the first time around,” said Madeline Martinez, 58, a former prison warden, who runs the café. “It just created a culture of gangsters and murderers. And now it’s happening again. I say we take marijuana away from the Mexican mob.”

    She added that she would like to see the state of Oregon itself become the primary supplier. “They could grow it in state prisons,” she said, without cracking a smile. “The best growers are already in there.”

    For the time being, however, visiting the Cannabis Café is not quite as easy as going to Starbucks.

    First, you must be enrolled in Oregon’s Medical Marijuana Programme — available only to residents of the state. Joining requires a $100 (£60) fee and a doctor’s certificate confirming that you suffer from cancer, glaucoma, Aids, Alzheimer’s, or any condition that results in severe pain, appetite loss, spasms, seizures, or nausea.

    Only after being issued with a patient ID card are you allowed to join the Oregon chapter of the National Organisation for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), which costs $240 a year. Patrons must show their patient ID and NORML membership cards before being let through the doors of the Cannabis Café.

    As for the price of a hit — it’s free. Unlike the so-called dispensaries in California that have been accused of profiteering, the marijuana served at the Cannabis Café is donated by state-approved growers, who painstakingly document which strains are most effective at treating specific symptoms.

    Inevitably, some neighbours are concerned. Although Ms Martinez claims that over-medicated patrons are not allowed to drive home, there do not appear to be any strictlyenforced rules, and urine-based drug tests — unlike Breathalyser tests — are notoriously unreliable.

    As for whether the Cannabis Café’s patrons are genuinely in need of medical help, Greg Woods, a 35-year-old patron who has suffered chronic pain since a 2003 car accident, appears to provide the answer.

    “I’m able to cut down on the number of narcotics I take because of this,” he said. While a Vicodin pill knocks him out, “smoking a bowl” keeps him functioning.

    And what about the coffee? Is it any good? He looked blank. Then he smiled. “Haven’t tried it,” he said.

    Chris Ayres
    November 20, 2009
    Times Online
  2. Terrapinzflyer
    Portland's Cannabis Cafe is not the first medical marijuana coffee shop in America

    On Friday the 13th NORML announced the opening, in Portland, of the first medical marijuana coffee shop in America. Since then this unforgivable error has been picked up by CBS 3,, Canada Free Press, Daily Finance, Money Times, Visit Bulgaria, The New York Times, Passport Magazine, Reuters, The Huffington Post, The Telegraph, The Guardian, The Times Online, and The AtlanticWire, to name just a few.

    The Portland Cannabis Cafe is most definitely not the first medical marijuana coffee shop in America.

    The mother ship was the San Francisco Cannabis Buyers Club which opened in 1995 at 1444 Market Street in San Francisco. But even that was not the first. Its predecessor was a smaller operation, also ran by Dennis Peron, at Church and Market in San Francisco. About 1995 Fred Seike and Scott Imler opened a medical marijuana club in Santa Cruz and in 1997 Steve McWilliams and Barbara McKenzie opened a medical marijuana club in San Diego that was in operation at least 4 years.

    As of this writing the New York Times has changed the title of their article and added the following note:

    This post was corrected after its initial publication to make clear that the statement in other reports, that this cafe was the nation’s first to allow marijuana use, was incorrect.

    Unlike NORML's club, The San Francisco Cannabis Buyers Club did not charge a membership fee or a use fee or require anyone to be a member of anything, except (of course) the club. Membership was free to anyone with a valid recommendation from a doctor, and cards were issued to members. You had to have a card to get in.

    Patients purchased cannabis on two floors at a counter. One floor was for sativa, the other for indica. Both floors had lounge areas of various types, and there was entertainment space as well. Medicating on the premises was not just allowed but encouraged. There were 5 floors in all, with intake and the offices of Proposition 215 on the ground floor, the backroom and club office on the 2nd floor, indica on the 3rd floor, and sativa on the 4th floor.

    It should be noted that on November 3rd, KDRV TV in Oregon reported the Portland Cannabis Cafe was the second medical marijuana club in that city - that another club had opened a month previous.

    November 21, 1:57 PM
    Santa Cruz County Drug Policy Examiner
    J. Craig Canada
  3. ninjaned
    Swim was just talking with his botany teacher about this. Swim lives in Eugene Oregon, which is rather close to Portland, and he hopes to someday visit the cafe. Sometimes swim really loves his state.
  4. chillinwill
    A look inside Oregon's first marijuana cafe

    The Cannabis Cafe opened on Nov. 13 at 4:20 p.m., Oregon’s first marijuana cafe.

    People must register with the Oregon Medical Marijuana Program with a doctor’s approval in order to receive a medical marijuana card, and they must also be members of the Oregon chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, or NORML, to get into the cafe.

    There is a $20 monthly fee and a $5 cover charge as well.

    The cafe is located in a historical building, which used to be a speakeasy and a ballroom, in a neighborhood in northeast Portland on Dekum Street.

    No marijuana is sold at the establishment. Various certified growers donate marijuana to the cafe. Patients can also bring in their own medicine. The cafe does not serve alcohol and serves a wide variety of soups, salads, burgers and paninis.

    Currently, Oregon has approximately 24,000 patients with medical marijuana cards.

    Oregon became the second state, behind California, to allow medical marijuana use in 1998.

    Patients are now allowed to grow their own crops instead of going to a dealer.

    Now that the Obama administration is shying away from marijuana raids, places like the Cannabis Cafe may start popping up in the dozen or so states that have medical marijuana laws.

    By Thomas Griffin
    January 7, 2010

    Video can be found at A look inside Oregon's first marijuana cafe
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