I was invited to attend a party this week celebrating the eve of retail cannabis sales in Oregon, held in NE Portland. The party was organized by host Samantha Montanaro of Prism House, and Leah Maurer, activist and Co-Chair of the Portland Chapter of Women Grow. I've been present for some inspirational conversations between these two ladies, and this party was just the beginning of what's to come. Both of these women are committed to bringing awareness to the issue of cannabis use, and educating both adults and children on what responsible, adult consumption looks like. With legal retail sales of cannabis comes the responsibility to educate children and youth on how to approach a plant that has been surrounded by propaganda and miseducation for decades. The allure of cannabis is the same as beer or cigarettes to many children, and these kids must be educated on the ramifications of using any substance before an appropriate age. "Clearly parents are talking to their children about alcohol and explaining to them this is not safe for you, this is illegal for you," Maurer told FOX 12 newscasters "So now's the time to do that with marijuana too."
The party was a family-friendly occasion, with food, drinks, and kids playing in the backyard. A children's book called "Let's Talk About Marijuana" was on display at a table in the garden, right next to 4 small cannabis plants growing in the midst of flowers, basil, peppers, tomatoes, and other vegetables. Written by Caitlin Sinatra, the book is the first of a series of children's books Sinatra plans to write, all centered on fostering unbiased communication between parents and their children on different taboo subjects.
The upstairs of the house was sectioned off as an area for adults over the age of 21 to safely consume cannabis, with an assortment of samples available. Clearly labeled cannabis infused edibles, tinctures, and vaporizers were provided by Highly Distributed, a company specializing in distribution of medical cannabis products throughout Oregon. Guests were also treated to product demonstrations from Empower Oil, a local company crafting cannabis infused topicals and bath salts, and Titrate, another local company formulating both cannabis infused and non-infused herbal blends to use in customized vaporizers.
The most monumental thing that took place at this party: Nothing. No "reefer madness" occurred, no one got rowdy or out of control, and everyone made new friends. Kids were running around the yard, and occasionally crying when they fell down. The most unusual thing I heard that evening was when a young boy asked Montanaro if he could have a soda, and the reply was "No, I'm sorry, we don't keep that kind of stuff in the house." There were a wide range of people at this event, both those who are involved in the cannabis industry, and several with no connection at all to the new market. I witnessed some genuine connections made between cannabis industry professionals and people who were just excited about the progress being made toward normalizing a substance that many argue is safer than alcohol, and has less health risk than cigarettes. Oregon has moved quicker than any other state on the legalization of recreational cannabis, with just a three month period between the implementation of legal adult use and the beginning of limited adult sales. Alaska passed recreational cannabis legislation in 2014, at the same time as Oregon, but is still struggling to come up with an effective way of regulating even medical cannabis sales.
The Prism House is available for select private events, such as cannabis enhanced yoga classes, dinners, or tupperware party style gatherings where vendors can display cannabis related products, and guests can try them out. Rather than gathering around the beer cooler, or a keg at your next function, perhaps these are some options that would appeal to your guests. In-home gatherings like this will undoubtedly gain in popularity, as it is one of the limited options consumers of the plant have at this point if they want to gather. Restrictions on public consumption rule out sampling during a restaurant, coffee shop, or other public event. I predict that these types of in-home events will become the new normal, and I'm also willing to bet you wouldn't even be able to tell the difference if your neighbors held an event like this one next-door to you.