Radical Russ: How Do We Not Have a Cannabis Cup in the Pacific Northwest?

Before we begin, make no doubt and let me be clear: High Times would love to have a Cannabis Cup in Seattle and in Portland*. So how in the hell is that not happening?

This weekend, High Times announced the new Central California Medical Cannabis Cup, bringing to three the number of events being held in California where vendors can openly display marijuana and any adult patient who wants to can enjoy their marijuana freely in the medication area. Clio, MI, recently held its Medical Cannabis Cup, as well.

So how is it those two non-legal states can have four Cannabis Cups while two legal states can have zero?

This year, High Times announced the Rastafari Rootzfest will host the 2015 Jamaican World Cannabis Cup to celebrate decriminalization of sacramental ganja and medical cannabis in Negril.

So how is it High Times can bring the leaders of a foreign government and a world religious movement together to work out a suitable arrangement for holding a Cannabis Cup in a place where marijuana is still technically illegal under national law and international treaty, but can’t find an event space to hold a Cannabis Cup in two states where recreational marijuana and medical marijuana are legal?

It’s simple. As the song goes, blame it on the a-a-a-a-a-alcohol.

In both Washington and Oregon, the oversight and regulation on recreational cannabis falls to the liquor control boards, the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board (WSLCB) and the Oregon Liquor Control Commission (OLCC).

Here in Oregon, the OLCC has promulgated rules that declare “any establishment with a state liquor license to be public, including patios or decks set aside for smokers. Allowing marijuana use may put an establishment’s liquor license in jeopardy.” Our marijuana legalization states that marijuana cannot be displayed or used in a public place. Now, here’s the kicker; it doesn’t even matter if the venue is serving alcohol at the time. That eliminates from Cannabis Cup consideration any venue that holds a liquor license, which is just about every venue with the size, layout, parking, and access that can handle 10,000 tokers at a time.

High Times went as far as trying to have the event in a suburb about 20 minutes’ drive south of Portland, using closed-off streets and warehouse space to hold an event half the size, but got nowhere with the local authorities. So no Portland Cannabis Cup… yet.

Then in Washington State, WSLCB had the same sort of opposition to public marijuana use venues, but had been backing their threats up by using the Clean Air Act to go after venues with alcohol that might allow pot use. Frankie’s Sports Bar & Grill in Olympia skirted the ban by allowing his second floor to become a volunteer-staffed private club. Other places formed BYOB (bring your own buds) private clubs and vapor lounges for cannabis consumers to hang out and socialize.

Undeterred, the Washington governor pressured the WSLCB to adopt rules to prohibit marijuana use at any place with a liquor license. Later, the legislature followed up by adopting a law that makes operating “a club, association, or other business, for profit or otherwise, that conducts or maintains a premises for the primary or incidental purpose of providing a location where members or other persons may keep or consume marijuana on the premises” a Class C felony. That pretty much killed any possibility of a Seattle Cannabis Cup.

Now, the liquor authorities in Washington and Oregon want you to know that they are doing this for your own good, you see. “Officials are concerned about people mixing marijuana and alcohol, especially if they’re going to be driving home,” says a report in Seattle’s KOMO News.

OK, sure, so why are they working to prohibit marijuana use in public places that aren’t serving alcohol when the marijuana is used? And why would that be a concern in the Portland suburb of Milwaukie, where officials just opened up a brand new light rail line that goes straight to where the venue is located? Especially when OLCC gave the green light to have a beer garden at the celebration of the Milwaukie stop opening this past weekend?

Sorry, they can’t convince me this is due to the fear of impaired drivers when there has never been much effort to force bars to require a valet to take their patrons’ car keys and require a <0.08 BAC breathalyzer result to get them back. This is war between drugs, plain and simple. Big Alcohol doesn’t like the idea of marijuana crowding its monopoly on good time public party fun, and Big Government doesn’t like the idea of mainstreaming the acceptance of adult public marijuana use.

So long as marijuana smoking remains a dirty harmful habit whose addicts are outlaws, tolerated only so long as they remain housebound, it remains possible to maintain discrimination against those consumers in employment, child care, medical care, and other segments of society.

We have been emancipated, but we still remain in our Jim Crow status of second-class citizenship. The majority forces upon us an unjust law they do not hold themselves to; alcohol drinkers and tobacco smokers have numerous public events at which they may socialize. We will not stop until Portland and Seattle are allowed to have the same kind of Cannabis Cup that Denver throws annually.

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