Up in smoke? GABA discovers ‘pot’

With recreational marijuana legalization in Oregon, if not at the federal level, Gateway businesspeople learn about its workplace ramifications …

Showing a tray of marijuana products is attorney Man M. Vu, as the Gateway Area Business Association meeting gets underway.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton

No one got “high”, but eyes were opened regarding the topic of recreational marijuana at the July meeting of the Gateway Area Business Association (GABA), held at the East Portland Community Center on July 9.

Also at the meeting, an organizer pitched a plan for upping corporate taxes, and those in attendance also learned about the upcoming “First Responder Tribute” program scheduled for September.

GABA VP Mike Wild, of Mt. Hood Community College, enthusiastically kicks off the noontime program, welcoming members and guests.

Iris Hodge, an organizer for Main Street Alliance of Oregon presents the organization’s plans for increasing taxes on “large corporations” in Oregon.

Starting off the program, Main Street Alliance of Oregon organizer Iris Hodge pitched support of the organization’s “A Better Oregon” initiative. In brief, the initiative, starting in 2016, if passed, would allegedly raise $4.7 billion biannually for education. The increased funding would come from raising taxes on “some of our largest corporations”.

Local attorney Man M. Vu and Jason Wasserman, owner of Udoxi Scientific, LLC, show both naturally-occurring and manufactured marijuana-based products.

“So far, 23 states that have legalized medical marijuana,” began attorney Man M. Vu. “And, as of July 1, [Oregon is] one of the four states allow legal possession of marijuana for anyone aged 21 or older. You can have four marijuana plants per household, a half an ounce on your person or an ounce in your house.

“We’re here to debate and educate,” Vu continued, “but not to ‘medicate’.”

Oregon currently has 320 medical marijuana dispensaries, with 91 of them in Portland,” Vu said. “With all this momentum, the number of dispensaries will level out. A lot of these will not stay in business; many of them going into business are less sophisticated. They’re either idealistic or opportunistic.”

GABA members and guests listen to the presentation about marijuana.

Joining in the presentation was Jason Wasserman, owner of Portland-based Udoxi Scientific, LLC, a company that creates high-tech extracts for scents and flavors, and also now provides marijuana extracts.

“In three to five years we’ll probably see ‘rescheduling’ of marijuana in the federal drug laws,” Wasserman predicted. “’Scheduling’ is how the federal Drug Enforcement Agency classifies drugs. We’re pushing that it be moved off the schedule.”

Currently, marijuana is a “Schedule 1” drug, Wasserman informed, meaning that it is defined as having “no medical or minute medicinal use, even though government has held hands-on medical uses since the 1940s.”

It’s patented as a neural protectant and anti-inflammatory, he added. “So, it’s hypocritical, and entirely unconstitutional, to be having this ‘war on drugs’,” Wasserman said. “We’ve seen the medical side of the benefits of this planet can be amazing. The research is coming out of there to mitigate neurological disorders, help alleviate symptoms with multiple sclerosis or ALS are coming up with well-vetted studies coming out of Israel.”

Wasserman showed liquids and solids condensed from marijuana buds. “These as extractions and concentrates – they can’t kill you,” Wasserman asserted. “They’ll make you sick perhaps that they can’t kill you. A bottle of liquor, or a pack of cigarettes can kill a child. We really don’t want children to get a hold of this, but if they do it probably won’t kill them.”

Man M. Vu shows marijuana extract, used in “vape” pipes.

With recreational marijuana now being made legal in Oregon, and with dispensaries soon being able to sell to recreational pot users, it’s important for businesses to update their employee manuals, Vu advised.

“Oregon is a ‘at will’ employment state,” Vu said, “being that employees can be fired for any reason, except under certain protected classes.

“My [general, but specific legal] advice is to treat marijuana use like alcohol,” Vu said. “Your workers can’t use alcohol on the job; and likely nor can they use marijuana. This is an opportunity to let your employees know what is acceptable, and what is not. Let your employees know what is expected of them. This would cause a lot less tension in the workplace.”

Businesses need to update their employee manuals and policies regarding marijuana, says attorney Vu.

Question: “If I prefer that my employees do not use marijuana at all, that is, even when away from the job, is that defensible from a legal standpoint?

Vu replied, “Absolutely. Especially so, if you are requiring a drug screening for every employee as a requirement of employment.”

Question: “There is a ‘Breathalyzer’ for alcohol, but not such a test for marijuana. How can one tell if an employee is using marijuana?”

Vu responded that there are currently no such devices. “They’re working on this for police; but it is difficult to determine the intoxication level, and the time of use.”

“Still, if you have an explicit policy that there is no alcohol or drugs or impairment on the job, it’s all treated the same,” Vu explained. “Part of the question involves federal regulations that identify marijuana as being illegal. Employees need to clearly understand what the handbook says.”

Fred Sanchez pitches the upcoming “First Responders Tribute” program.

On another subject, and also at the meeting, Past GABA President Fred Sanchez of Realty Brokers told about their annual event, including the “First Responders Tribute”.

“It’s on September 10,” Sanchez said. “In addition, there will also be a community fair, Gateway Citizen of the Year award, flag ceremony, gun salute, live entertainment, drone demonstrations, and more.”

MHCC President Dr. Debra Derr will speak, Sanchez added.

The meeting is at 111th SQUARE – NE Halsey at 111th Avenue in outer East Portland, and you’re invited. For more information, visit their all-new website: CLICK HERE.

© 2015 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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