Oregon NORML Testimony for HB 2233
To: The House Committee on Economic Development
We are incredibly encouraged that both the House and Senate have decided to take up the issue of the social consumption of cannabis in Oregon. However, we are opposed to House Bill 2233 as currently written and support Senate Bill 639 as written because of a key policy difference that we find to be incredibly discriminatory; the Indoor Clean Air Act.
Clearly there is need for an Indoor Clean Air Act (ICAA) and we support the existence of this important legislation. However, the ICAA was specifically amended after Oregon voters approved the legalization of cannabis in 2014 in order to prevent cannabis social consumption. We support the small change in the ICAA that is being proposed in SB 639 because not only does it continue to protect employees and patrons of public venues from dangerous second-hand tobacco smoke, but it is a solid step towards parity and equal application of the benefits of legalization to all Oregonians that was passed into law by voters in 2014.
Every state in the nation has a version of the ICAA. Our neighbors to the south, California, passed the first ICAA in 1976 and today, post-legalization, allow for smoking and vaporizing of cannabis in licensed cafes (per local ordinances). As more of these lounges roll out, tourists will increasingly choose to visit California over Oregon in order to support these freedoms. California’s ICAA remains intact and as strong as ever. Why are we pushing away business?
This issue isn’t just about economics and tourism, but discrimination of Oregon citizens. Renters and those living in public housing usually aren’t allowed to possess cannabis in their own homes, even for medical use. Right now we are leaving our patients out in the cold, literally, by forcing them to break the law and stand on the street in order to get the quick relief of inhaled cannabis (such as nausea due to chemotherapy).
We, quite literally, have tourists and residents alike smoking on street corners, in public parks and in their cars. The law does not change their preferred method of ingestion. We want to move this use out of public view and into licensed and regulated businesses. We want to give people a safe and legal place to smoke that is indoors and out of the harsh elements that are part of Oregon’s climate nearly half the year.
Unlike tobacco smoke, cannabis smoke is not associated with cancer, despite the federal government trying to prove that it is and generalized opponents to social consumption using this sort of fear mongering to prevent us from rolling out legal protections for an industry that generates hundreds of millions a year for the state and that a majority of Oregonians want. (See: Dr. Donald Tashkin, UCLA, government-sponsored longitudinal study on cannabis smoking. Please also see testimony of Paul Armentano of National NORML).
Although Oregon has the ICAA, certain businesses based around inhalation of known cancer-causing substances do exist; cigar bars and hookah lounges. Businesses that serve products that can impair drivers (alcohol bars) already exist in Oregon. Personal responsibility and increased access to education, public transportation and ride sharing address these potential hazards. Again, the law will not change the fact it is already happening.
As written, HB 2233 pushes users outdoors. By bringing the inhaled use of cannabis indoors, patients and adult users are protected, consumption is kept out of public view and your constituents no longer have to choose between breaking their lease or the law in order to consume a heavily-taxed product they can legally possess. Because this issue disproportionately affects the poor, renters and people of color, who are more likely to get cited for consuming in public view, we oppose HB 2233 as written and support SB 639. Further, we feel it will be unnecessarily complicating to assign two agencies to regulate these spaces. The OLCC is the best agency to regulate, not the OHA.
We urge our legislators to truly represent the majority of their constituents, not just the powerful lobbies that also opposed legalization in the first place. Please amend HB 2233 to be less discriminatory and more in line with SB 639. We will continue to push this issue until we feel the justices of cannabis legalization have been distributed equally among all Oregonians.
The Board of Directors at Oregon NORML