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First U.S. marijuana cafe opens in Portland

PORTLAND, Oregon (Reuters) – 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.

NO PROSECUTION

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.”

Writing by Bill Rigby; editing by Mohammad Zargham

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.

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TJ’s Combines Two of Portland’s Biggest Obsessions: Weed and Coffee

By Cameron Vigliotta [email protected]

On 420, just days after TJ’s Dispensary opened its Southeast Powell Boulevard location, the dispensary and coffee shop was abuzz.

An endless stream of dedicated cannabis enthusiasts walked in and out the door, so frequently it was rarely shut.

It wasn’t exactly an average day, though. To celebrate the holiday and its first Portland outpost, TJ’s hosted a meet-and-greet with hip-hop legend Rakim, who was in town to headline this year’s Soul’d Out Festival. The golden age rapper smiled for pictures with star-struck fans and employees and examined the shelves stocked with bud, taking whiffs of various strains, at times wincing at the overpowering aroma.

Star-studded opening aside, TJ’s is about as low key as dispensaries get, to the point it’s almost inconspicuous. The building’s pitch-black exterior holds little character and gives few clues about its content. The interior decorating looks like a collaboration between IKEA and Snoop Dogg: Modern wood paneling and metal trim outline display cases that contain an assortment of products created by TJ’s parent company, Stem: Yerba Buena flower, Cannavore edibles, and Dose-ology CBD oils. Unlike the clinical aesthetic of most dispensaries, which can feel overwhelming to newbies, TJ’s feels homey.

Still, aside from its sociable and cozy environment, the small chain, which has two locations in Eugene, is distinct from Portland’s hundreds of other dispensaries for one major reason. To distinguish itself from the ever-expanding and competitive cannabis market, TJ’s combines weed with another highly consumed Portland stimulant: coffee.

Opposite the shelves of brightly lit flower, the in-house coffee bar serves a lineup of classic espresso drinks and hemp-derived CBD coffee and tea to neighborhood patrons and daily commuters. During our visit, it looked as if the coffee bar was more popular than the dispensary. After all, picking up a fresh cup of coffee alongside some quality bud seemed a no-brainer that is, for some strange reason, only now coming to fruition. Considering Portland’s obsession with both substances, the only surprise is that someone didn’t combine a cannabis dispensary with a coffee shop sooner.

TJ’s just capitalizes on a fresh idea that’s hardly outside the box. When asked why they chose to pair a coffee bar with a cannabis dispensary, multiple employees resoundingly replied, “Why not?”

TJ’s represents a growing trend in Oregon’s cannabis industry. Rather than succumb to plunging flower prices amid Oregon’s cannabis surplus, the chain has found a way to tweak the dispensary status quo only slightly but rather successfully. The idea is simple: Sell good weed and serve good coffee. TJ’s succeeds at both.

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