Alcohol and Marijuana Go Together Like . . . Oil and Water: They Don’t Mix
The OLCC recently issued formal guidance on recreational marijuana. In sum, the use of recreational marijuana is not allowed in a public place. While this may not be a surprise to some, it’s still a secret to many. Or, more likely, it’s simply widely disregarded. For those of us living in Portland, it’s not uncommon to see or smell public marijuana use. Strict enforcement of this prohibition is obviously a tremendous challenge to law enforcement and simply may not be a top priority. (Hmm . . .what to pursue? Violent crime or marijuana smokers?)
It’s an entirely different story for businesses with liquor licenses. Businesses with liquor licenses are considered “public places” and the OLCC is (and has been) making this prohibition a top enforcement priority.
If you operate a licensed business in Oregon, you must be extremely careful when it comes to recreational marijuana. Oregon law absolutely prohibits the following conduct at licensed businesses:
- Using recreational marijuana;
- Selling recreational marijuana; or,
- Distributing recreational marijuana.
- You get the idea: a liquor license means NO RECREATIONAL MARIJUANA!
Even if a licensed business is not currently selling alcohol, it’s still considered a licensed business. A liquor license applies to the business 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. No exceptions.
And, it should go without saying that the prohibitions against recreational marijuana use also apply to illegal recreational drugs too.
The public’s rapidly changing perception about the use, sale and distribution of recreational marijuana poses a significant challenge to licensed businesses. The public—particularly young people who tend to frequent bars more often—is increasingly coming to accept the public use of marijuana. They also are more willing to disregard what they perceive to be outdated social conventions about when and where marijuana can be used, even if those social conventions still happen to be supported by current law. Further, the public is generally neither aware of, nor concerned about, the consequences of their actions on your liquor license.
The practical take away for Oregon licensees is simple: Keep recreational marijuana out of your licensed business! It is ultimately your responsibility to comply with Oregon law. Licensed businesses that fail to heed the OLCC’s repeated public pronouncements that marijuana use at licensed premises is a top enforcement priority may find their liquor license in serious jeopardy.