Noelle Crombie, The Oregonian
As soon as Oregon voters said yes to marijuana legalization last year, High Times announced it would host a Cannabis Cup in Portland.
But those plans have hit a snag, prompting the publication to delay the event until September, said publisher Mary McEvoy.
The issue: the Oregon Liquor Control Commission won’t allow cannabis consumption at venues that hold liquor licenses. The policy, which the agency spelled out in a recent letter to all liquor license holders in the state, means bars, restaurants and any other venue authorized t
o serve alcohol can’t allow marijuana consumption in their establishments.
“We have made the decision that any place with a liquor license is public and there is no consumption of marijuana at public places so allowing people to consume marijuana at a place that has a liquor license puts the liquor license in jeopardy,” said Tom Towslee, a spokesman for the liquor control commission.
Establishments that violate the policy can face administrative sanctions, according to the July 3 letter the agency sent to license holders.
“They are going to have to make a choice between allowing someone to smoke marijuana on their premises and how great they value their liquor license,” said Towslee.
The debate over allowing people to consume cannabis in commercial establishments is playing out in Denver, where activists are advocating for a voter initiative that would allow limited pot use in places where it’s currently not allowed, including bars and clubs.
Mason Tvert, a spokesman for the Marijuana Policy Project, a group that pushed for Colorado’s marijuana legalization law, told The Denver Post recently that the proposed initiative would allow cannabis consumption by people 21 and older “in designated areas and venues where only adults are allowed.”
“This is allowing adults to have the option to use marijuana in certain venues that choose to allow it,” he told the Post.
McEvoy said High Times has reached out to at least two dozen Portland venues for its Cannabis Cup, a celebration of all-things-pot. All of the establishments they’ve contacted hold liquor licenses.
What options remain?
“Open fields basically at this point,” McEvoy said. “That is what it’s come down to.”
She said the magazine needs about 150,000 feet of space, including a mix of indoor and outdoor areas. She doesn’t know how many people would end up attending, but added that High Times has gotten lots of calls from Oregonians wondering about the event.
“It’s legal now so people can come from far and wide,” she said. “We just want to make sure we have enough space.”
High Times began hosting Cannabis Cup events in 2010 in California. This year, the company plans to hold eight of them. The Denver event, held on April 20, drew 50,000 people.
McEvoy said High Times is determined to pin down an Oregon location.
“It’s really a group of like-minded people that are coming together to share — we really believe this — to share cannabis in a legal, open forum,” she said. “We are excited to share that in one the newest legal states.
“We want to celebrate what the really smart people in Oregon did” by legalizing marijuana, she said. “That’s why we are going to find something.”