First U.S. Marijuana Cafe Opens for Business in Portland

Cancel your flight to Amsterdam – the U.S. just got its first marijuana cafe on Friday. Located in Portland, Ore., the Cannabis Cafe shows how attitudes have changed since the Obama administration moved into the White House. A month ago, President Barack Obama told federal attorneys to ease off medical marijuana prosecutions.

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The widening use of medicinal marijuana has forced governments into a tenuous legal balancing act, according to a Reuters report. Some states passed legislation to allow it, starting with California in 1996. Nonetheless, a federal ban remains in place. The operation of businesses like the Cannabis Cafe, as well as marijuana establishments in California, has been possible as long as federal authorities have chosen not to pursue them. Unlike the shops in California, though, the Portland establishment is the first in the U.S. where certified medical marijuana users can both acquire and consume their marijuana, as long as they stay out of public view.

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Madeline Martinez, executive director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws in Oregon, says that the Cannabis Club "represents personal freedom, finally, for our members." NORML supports legislation to legalize marijuana.

"Our plans go beyond serving food and marijuana," Martinez continues. "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 Food is For Sale, but the Pot is Free

The Cannabis Cafe’s new home is a two-story building with an interesting past. Once upon a time, it was occupied by a speakeasy, and later, an adult entertainment club called Rumpspankers. The Cannabis Cafe is a private club, but any Oregon resident who is a member of NORML and has an official medical marijuana card can gain entry.

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November 18, 2009