Cannabis and Karaoke – Perfect Together

"It's a reason to get out of the house so you're not just a hermit in the dark with pain pills." – Teresa Sheffer

This relaxed Portland cafe provides the perfect setting for medical marijuana patients to socialize and sing everything from Sinatra to Sublime.

PORTLAND, Ore. – Lights dim. A white-haired man of perhaps 50 approaches the stage. He’s wearing a blue suit jacket, open-neck shirt, black leather loafers and sunglasses, indoors, at night. He’s got the Sinatra panache down.

Then, the voice, a rich baritone, sweeps over the audience of a couple dozen glazed and grinning pot smokers.

“Day and night, night and daaaaay,” he croons the Sinatra standard into a mic in his right hand. “Only you beneath the moon or under the sun, whether near to me or far, it’s no matter darling where you are.

“Dum dum, dum dum de-doo-dee-dum.”

The audience yelps and coos in appreciation.

This is karaoke night at Portland’s Cannabis Cafe, a combination of the bar from Cheers and a street-side pot palace in Amsterdam. It is perfectly legal in this smoky room for medical marijuana patients to burn, eat, rub, filter and roll marijuana.

There are cancer patients, AIDS patients and sufferers of smashed vertebrae and pinched nerves. There are also those who find refuge under Oregon’s “severe pain” allowance – tell a marijuana-friendly doctor you’ve got pain, and you’ve pretty much got weed.

Since the medical marijuana law’s passage in 1998, nearly 40,000 patients have gotten access.

The pot in the cafe is brought in by patients or donated by growers. Money doesn’t change hands unless it’s to buy a sandwich or coffee. The price of admission: a $20 monthly charge and a $5 door fee.

The cafe has farmer’s markets of donated weed-laden goodies, a weekly comedy show and even an employees’ night. On Thursdays, it’s karaoke. An ill-lit stage catches an occasional cloud of puffy white smoke blown from a pipe or a bong or a vaporizer.

The Sinatra crooner, unlike many tonight, has got the goods.

The rest of the evening will be spent alternatively cringing and clapping at the cluster of medical marijuana users who make it their business to be at the cafe when karaoke kicks off at 7 p.m.

From table to table, the stories pour out of them. Most declined to provide their names.

Teresa Sheffer was hit by a train while driving in Alto, Mich. It broke every major bone on her right side and left her with damage to her spine. Now her pain sometimes gets so severe it forces her to huddle in her house, alone.

But sitting six paces from the stage with a pipe in front of her and a thick pinch of locally grown pot packed into her friend’s bong, she’s relaxed. If there is a point to the Cannabis Cafe, it is to give people who smoke pot a place to do it together.

“It’s a family here,” Sheffer said. “You see other people with the same problems, but it’s not a hospital. It’s a reason to get out of the house so you’re not just a hermit in the dark with pain pills.”

Read more by Beth Mann on Karaoke as Cheap Therapy

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