Marijuana has been legal in Oregon now for only about three years. But, like it or dislike it, many Oregonians pretty much take cannabis for granted these days.
Yet even after legalization not all is emerald-tinted when it comes to recreational marijuana use in Oregon. Especially if you’re moving to Eugene or moving to Bend from out of state, you probably have some questions about how to navigate the whole cannabis scene. It may be you’d rather avoid it altogether. In either case, we’re here to help.
Eugene, of course, has a long-cherished reputation as a marijuana mecca. Long before legalization, you could take a stroll around certain neighborhoods like the Whiteaker or Downtown and be bound to encounter the skunky aroma of cannabis at some point.
Bend’s culture of cannabis definitely has a different, perhaps more outdoors-focused flavor. Still, it’s not too far off in its friendliness to the herb.
Both cities are now home to a multitude of dispensaries easily accessible from all parts of town to recreational users ages 21 and older. The Bend area features close to 20, while Eugene has a whopping 50-plus and growing.
(Eugene may have legislation in the works to limit how many cannabis retailers can set up shop in a single area. Read our article on Proposed 1,000 foot Buffer Zones for Dispensaries.)
This booming market has led to a boon of affordable, high-quality cannabis. In fact, the potency of legal marijuana often catches folks off-guard.
Talk to your budtender. They’re usually very friendly, knowledgeable people. Find the strain that’s right for you. If you haven’t developed a tolerance, perhaps steer clear of those with high concentrations of THC and telling names like “LSD” and “Ghost Train Haze.”
In terms of legality, the main thing you need to know is to keep it at home. Consuming marijuana in public remains a no-go throughout Oregon, subject to a $1,000 fine. This applies both to outdoor and indoor spaces. Use your common sense though and there’s probably no need for undue paranoia.
But even if you’re partaking at home, there are some finer points you may want to keep in mind.
All Neighborhoods are not Equal when it Comes to Cannabis
There are any number of activities a homeowner might engage in that are completely legal but require sensitivity to neighbors. There have been a few reports locally of police complaints regarding the smell but the official word is that there’s no legal recourse–so far. At the same time, positive neighborly relationships are something most homeowners strive for.
The fact of the matter is, some neighborhoods in Eugene and Bend are more cannabis-friendly than others. If you hope to make cannabis a central part of your lifestyle, both cities are great places to live, but do your homework.
As far as Eugene neighborhoods go, there’s a certain generalization to be made that North Eugene is more socially and politically conservative while South Eugene runs more liberal. Bend is a bit harder to parse, but neighborhoods in the hills do tend to lean more conservative.
There are exceptions, of course, some of which we cover below. And there’s certainly a danger in mapping friendliness toward the herb neatly onto political or social orientation. But, given a lack of any hard data other than the relative concentration of dispensaries, we have to rely on hearsay.
With that said, here’s our breakdown of the best and worst neighborhoods for cannabis culture in Eugene and Bend:
Top 3 Cannabis-Friendly Neighborhoods in Eugene
1. The Whiteaker
The Whiteaker, described by Esquire Magazine as “one of America’s weirdest neighborhoods” has a cannabis pedigree that almost goes without mention. Dispensaries like Glass Roots Dispensary and Twenty After Four are centrally located, while Buds LLC services the east end of the neighborhood toward Skinner’s Butte. The south end of the neighborhood features a row of close to half-a-dozen (!) cannabis retailers.
Here, even if your neighbors don’t partake themselves, they’re most likely cannabis-friendly. But, having spent some time with Mary Jane in the privacy of your own home, you’ll most likely be looking for further adventures, perhaps some munchies, a microbrew or two to mellow things out, or live music.
This is where the Whiteaker truly shines. Neighborhood standby Sam Bond’s Garage is a hub for all three of the above. Quirky restaurants and food carts are plentiful, while the area is home to three nationally-recognized microbreweries. But you may just find yourself staring at one of the neighborhood’s community murals, soaking in the 420-friendly vibes, or engaging a passerby in deep philosophical discussion.
In terms of local cannabis culture, Downtown Eugene is where it all started. Kesey Square is dedicated to sixties countercultural icon Ken Kesey, and his influence looms large. It’s still possible to bask in the spirit of the sixties every Saturday during the warmer months when the Saturday Market opens for business. The Market features more than 200 vendors selling handcrafted goods, live music, food, fresh produce at the Farmers Market, and some of the most 420-friendly vibes around.
Looking for some munchies, day or night, and a hearty side of weirdness to enliven your mind? Look no further than Voodoo Doughnuts, which has much shorter lines than the more famous Portland location and just as many off-the-wall flavors. If the natural world is more your cup of green tea, head to Skinner’s Butte Park on the Willamette River for some daytime mellowness. For live music and performance, Downtown is certainly Eugene’s hotspot. Whatever the day of the week and whatever your tastes, you’re likely to find it within walking distance.
Downtown housing, of course, is mainly apartment buildings. These can be a mixed bag when it comes to cannabis-friendly neighbors. But with upwards of a dozen area dispensaries, the herb’s presence here is not to be denied.
3. River Road
As we mentioned, North Eugene tends to be more conservative than South Eugene, but River Road is a definite exception. This is a place to be if you’d rather be out in your garden or hanging out with friends in your backyard than going out on the town. The word “laid-back” basically encapsulates the River Road vibe.
The cannabis scene here follows along the same lines. The word has become a slippery one, but if you self-identify as a hippie, this may be the neighborhood for you. It’s true of many parts of Eugene, but here in particular, parents are raising their kids in an alternative way, turning away from the values of mainstream consumer culture.
Top 3 Cannabis-Friendly Neighborhoods in Bend
1. River West
River West is already home to much of the best that Bend has to offer, so this is kind of icing on the cake. But take it from us: River West is Bend’s premier location for cannabis enthusiasts.
We’re guessing, though, that you’ll be seeking a bit mellower vibes than you’re likely to find in the heart of Bend.
And that’s what makes River West such a great place to indulge your cannabis fancies: you’re close enough to downtown to enjoy all that it has to offer but you’re also smack dab in Bend’s most walkable neighborhood. Galveston Avenue is the center of the city’s brewery and live music scenes, and there are also plenty of cafes, a wine bar, and great restaurants.
Then, of course, there’s the mighty Deschutes River. Hit up Harmon and Pageant Park, or cross east at NW Tumalo Ave to Drake Park. Watch the river flow, throw a frisbee around, or take your dog for a walk. Is there anything more to life than that?
2. Orchard District / Midtown
With the River West neighborhood, you’ll be heading west of Downtown, while the Orchard District has you heading east. We have to dock some points here because of the greater distance from the river and close proximity on the west side to Highway 97. But the Orchard District, also known as Midtown, has its own unique features that put it in contention for the top spot.
Let’s start with Pilot Butte, shall we? As the name implies, Pilot Butte is a butte, a small mountain basically, and that means hiking and views from on high. Sometimes, cannabis is the perfect catalyst for some added perspective, and here you’ll have it in spades.
As a whole, the Orchard District has a lower-key, mellow vibe compared with many other sections of town. And yes, there are plenty of dispensaries. In the north, you have The Herb Center and Substance Cannabis Market, while down south, there’s Jenny’s Dispensary and Top Shelf Medicine.
3. Southern Crossing
Parks? Check. River? Check. Brewpubs? Check? Bend’s premier outdoor concert venue and shopping/entertainment district? Check. Dispensaries? Well, technically Miracle Greens, rated Bend’s Best Dispensary by the Bend Bulletin and Canacopia are just outside the neighborhood, to the east in Larkspur. So, we do have to dock a few points there. But we don’t think that accessibility to cannabis will be too much of an issue.
In all honesty, Southern Crossing could be our number one pick and we wouldn’t feel too conflicted. But since this is a list, with numbers, Southern Crossing is number three. The crowds in some of the busier parts of the ‘hood–the Old Mill District, chiefly–might not be to your liking if you prefer mellower cannabis excursions. But Bend’s two punniest riverfront parks, Farewell Bend and Riverbend, are plenty close by.
3 Worst Neighborhoods for Cannabis in Eugene
1. Cal Young
We wouldn’t want to scare any cannabis user from this or the other two neighborhoods below. The fact is, anywhere in Oregon is a better place for marijuana than in states where it remains illegal.
But the Cal Young neighborhood probably won’t be near the top of the list for cannabis enthusiasts. There’s only a single dispensary here, NoDak Green Prairie, quite telling for one of Eugene’s largest and most populous neighborhoods.
The vibe here is definitely suburban and tending toward the higher end of the socio-economic spectrum. It’s a lovely place to live and raise a family though, and if you’re looking for somewhere you can avoid cannabis culture as much as possible, Cal Young is probably a great choice. And you can still cross the river into Downtown or the Whiteaker any time to experience the scene as a tourist.
Technically, the Churchill neighborhood is a part of South Eugene, but it’s home to a whopping zero dispensaries. In part, this is because the neighborhood lacks commercial real estate in general, but the Eugreen Health Center is accessible just north off W. 11th Avenue.
All the same, Churchill isn’t a logical place to go if you’re seeking the 420 lifestyle. We’d like to emphasize, though, that for casual users who want to partake occasionally in their own homes, there aren’t any bad neighborhoods in Eugene. Those looking for higher-end real estate just might find their dream home in the tranquil hills south of Churchill.
The east end of the Bethel neighborhood along Highway 99 does feature four highly-rated dispensaries, Rare Earth Organics, Green Health, Highway 99 Cannabis Co., and TJ’s Provisions. But especially if you’re more toward the west, cannabis won’t be as accessible as many other neighborhoods in Eugene.
Like the above two neighborhoods, Bethel has a somewhat suburban feeling, though housing prices are significantly lower and the population is more diverse. Culturally, however, it’s pretty far from the more cannabis-friendly heart of Eugene. Don’t let this be a detraction, however, if you’re indifferent to cannabis or just looking for affordable housing.
3 Worst Neighborhoods for Cannabis in Bend
1. and 2. Summit West and Century West (tie)
Gated communities and houses with golf course frontage don’t tend to inspire visions of cannabis-inspired bliss. These two neighborhoods in the hills to the westernmost section of Bend are typified by that sort of real estate.
We certainly wouldn’t want to dissuade anyone from seeking their dream home in either neighborhood. At the same time, there are more logical places to pursue your cannabis fancies in Bend.
On the other hand, being in Summit West or Century West puts you in spitting distance of the majesty of the Cascade Mountains and their many recreational activities. We ourselves won’t recommend the combination of cannabis and, say, biking down a steep section of mountainside singletrack. But if communing with nature is more your speed than roaming the city streets, this is a fine place to be.
3. Awbrey Butte
Awbrey Butte is certainly an upscale neighborhood, especially toward the heights of the butte itself. Somewhat needless to say, you won’t find any dispensaries in the area. Actually though, that’s somewhat surprising, given the proximity of Central Oregon Community College. You’ll have to head down the hill to the east and across the river to access the multitude of pot shops off Highway 97.
That inconvenience aside, you can do worse as a cannabis enthusiast in Bend. The neighborhood’s lower reaches offer proximity to the River West neighborhood. It, as we already have seen, is an excellent place for your cannabis-related adventures.