Cannabis Cafe opens in Portland

The United States' first marijuana cafe opened its doors for the first time late last week in Portland, Oregon. It is considered as an early test of the Obama administration's move to relax policing of medical use of the drug.

The news made headlines this week as the Cannabis Cafe is the first to give certified medical marijuana users a place to get hold of the drug and smoke it - as long as they are out of public view - despite a federal ban, Reuters reports.

The cafe is technically a private club, but is open to any Oregon residents who are NORML members and hold an official medical marijuana card. NORML is a group pushing for marijuana legalization and Oregon's executive director Madeline Martinez, says "this club represents personal freedom, finally, for our members".

According to Martinez the cafe won't just stop at 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."

Members have to pay $25 per month to be able to get marijuana free over the counter. According to Reuters, there are about 21,000 patients registered to use marijuana for medical purposes in Oregon. Doctors have prescribed marijuana for a host of illnesses, including Alzheimer's, diabetes, multiple sclerosis and Tourette's syndrome.

The creation of the cafe comes only a month after US President Obama's administration instructed federal attorneys not to prosecute patients who use marijuana for medical reasons or dispensaries in states which have legalized them.

Growing, possessing, distributing and smoking marijuana are still illegal under U.S. federal law, which makes no distinction between medical and recreational use.

The members of NORML see this step towards a different direction in the US' drug policy so far as amazing. And understandably so.