Call it a landmark: Oregon's highest profile marijuana business opened its doors at 4:20 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 13, 2009.


However, a dope den, Portland's "Cannabis Café" is not.

In order to gain access to the Café, patrons are required to have a doctor's prescription for medical marijuana. The entry fee for non-members is steep too: at $60, which buys a month's dues and a year-long membership to the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), it's a surprise the café does not itself sell cannabis. Instead, the former breakfast restaurant will serve as something of a social environment, allowing patients a place where they can be around strangers while medicating.

Though widely reported to have been America's first marijuana café, Portland's newest business does not quite achieve the title.

"On Oct. 1, Steve Geiger opened Highway 420, a small lounge at the back of his pipe shop [in Portland]," Oregon Live noted.

But it was not all cheers outside the grand opening.

"Despite the hype, opening night seemed like kind of a bust," a blogger with Portland Mercury deadpanned. "As I stood at the back of the line talking with Ian, a long-time cardholder who was up for the idea of a sociable 'medicating' environment ('Do you like to sit and drink in your house?' he said. 'It's nice to get out.'), people kept ditching out from the front of the line, shaking their heads. 'Why would I want to smoke with a bunch of people I don't know?' grumbled an old man in a black cowboy hat, striding away. 'Save your money and buy a bag!' shouted a twenty-something dude as he left."

"Executive Director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, Madeline Martinez, executive director of NORML, cheered the opening. "This club represents personal freedom, finally, for our members," she said. "Our plans go beyond serving food and marijuana. We hope to have classes, seminars, even a Cannabis Community College, based here to help people learn about growing and other uses for cannabis."

“The response has been overwhelming,” Martinez told High Times.

The new café is something of a test for the Obama administration's policy that it will respect individual states' medical marijuana laws. During his presidential campaign, Obama had promised to stop raids on medical dispensaries that were operating within state law.

"I think the basic concept of using medical marijuana for the same purposes and with the same controls as other drugs prescribed by doctors, I think that's entirely appropriate," the president said.

Laws in California and Colorado, which also allow medical marijuana, do not make provisions for anything other than dispensaries. Oregon has about 21,000 medical marijuana patients.

This video was published by The Oregonian on Nov. 13, 2009.

Cannabis Cafe opens for medical marijuana patients in Northeast Portland