I recently wrote about the problems facing tourists to Oregon who want to smoke recreational marijuana. Here’s a very Portland solution to an Oregon problem – pedicab marijuana tours. Now, if you’re local like I am, this idea probably seems less novel and more like the natural evolution of Portland business development. It also happens to fall into an exception in the section of the Portland City Code restricting smoking in for-hire vehicles.

Portland Allows Smoking in Pedicabs

Section 16.40.340(A)(9) forbids permitted for-hire vehicle drivers from “[a]llow[ing] any passenger to smoke any substance or use tobacco in any form inside a permitted vehicle, unless it is a pedicab.” Per the code, a pedicab is a tricycle that:

-       transports passengers on seats attached to the tricycle,

-       is powered by a human or a human with an electrical assist, and

-       is used as a for-hire transportation service.

So offering tourists a place to smoke is as easy as operating a pedicab, right?

Sort of. Measure 91 forbids the “the use of marijuana items in a public place,” and says that a “public place” is “a place to which the general public has access and includes…highways [and] streets.” So is the inside of a pedicab on a public street a “public place?” The answer, as with most Measure 91 questions these days, is that it remains to be seen. With any luck, the OLCC will follow in Colorado’s footsteps and clarify this point when they write the rules. If they follow Washington’s example, some enterprising Portlander will have to put the language to the test.

Colorado Allows Smoking in For-Hire Transportation

In Colorado, Amendment 64 prohibits consumption of marijuana “openly and publicly,” but the legislature carved out a specific exception allowing the use of marijuana in the passenger area of for-hire transportation. As a result, several tour companies in Colorado currently allow passengers to sample goods in between stops.

Washington Left I502 Unclear, Then Shut the Door

In Washington, I502 prohibits the consumption of marijuana products “in view of the general public,” but doesn’t clarify what this means. Enter the WeedBus. Christened in 2014, the WeedBus offered marijuana-themed tours of Seattle on which tourists and frustrated Seattle renters could smoke weed. The operators counted on tinted windows to keep them compliant with I502. Despite the lukewarm endorsement of the Seattle Police Department, the WeedBus was shut down by State authorities, who took the position that “charter and excursion vehicles, drivers, and passengers are considered to be in view of the general public.” The WeedBus continues to operate as a smoke-free tour company in Seattle, though our sources tell us it was recently seen in Portland putting the definition of “public place” to the test.

Operating Marijuana Pedicab Tours in Portland

So what does all this mean for your pedicab marijuana tour business? Keep an eye on the OLCC rule-making progress. Early indications are that the agency is taking a measured and comprehensive approach to the rules. With luck, we’ll end up with a thorough set of rules that addresses specific questions like these about the practical realities of legal marijuana in Oregon. 

Comment