Senate OKs Bill to Legalize Medical Pot Shops

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Seeking to make it easier for medical pot users to get their medicine and harder for the black market to get its hands on Oregon weed, the state Senate on Wednesday approved a bill that would legalize and license marijuana shops.

Under current Oregon law, nearly 55,000 cardholders must grow the drug themselves or designate someone to grow it for them. Medical pot users say dispensaries are needed, to give them a reliable place to get their medicine.

Medical marijuana dispensaries that exist now operate without oversight and run the risk of being shut down by law enforcement. Some counties have taken a hands-off approach and allowed the establishments to remain open. But dispensaries in other counties have been raided by police and forced to close.

Another major concern of Oregon’s medical pot program is that the weed supposedly intended for medical marijuana patients is getting sold on the black market.

Architects of the bill passed on Wednesday say it will give cardholders certainty that they can acquire their medicine, and that it is safe. They also hope the bill will keep excess pot from being siphoned off to the black market.

“This is a great way to impose a standard that will keep that from occurring,” said Sen. Floyd Prozanksi, D-Eugene.

The bill, which passed 18-12, would establish a licensing system under the Oregon Medical Marijuana Program to regulate the medicinal pot retail industry. This would bring the estimated 200 lounges, collectives and cafes already in operation under the purview of state law.

Opponents say the bill doesn’t go far enough to stop what they see as abuses to the state’s medical marijuana program. And some lawmakers have argued that authorizing dispensaries is a slippery slope to legalizing marijuana for recreational use.

The bill would authorize growers to legally sell their excess pot to medical marijuana establishments that connect patients with their medicine. Growers could only charge for the cost of supplies and utilities.

Under the bill, medical marijuana retailers would pay $4,000 a year to remain registered. Owners would have to pass criminal background checks, document the marijuana coming into their establishments and verify it’s from state-registered growers. The bill also requires testing all marijuana batches for pesticides, molds and mildews.

A legislative report estimates there will be 225 state-licensed dispensaries in the next two years if the bill is approved.

The bill would also prohibit medical marijuana retail outlets from operating within 1,000 feet of each other or a school. And they would have to operate in agricultural, industrial or commercial areas.

Supporters of the bill include Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum and the League of Oregon Cities.

In a letter endorsing the bill, the organization wrote: “While there are a number of divergent viewpoints on medical marijuana among Oregon’s cities, there is a common need to ensure that those providing medical marijuana do so in a responsible manner.”

A Senate committee modified the bill last week to satisfy concerns raised by some district attorneys who initially opposed the bill. Among other changes, the revised bill would tighten a restriction prohibiting people convicted of certain drug crimes from running a medical marijuana dispensary. The district attorneys are now neutral on the bill.

The legislation now goes to the House, which approved an earlier version of the bill but must agree to the Senate’s changes. A vote is expected this weekend.

Source: Associated Press (Wire)
Author: Lauren Gambino, The Associated Press
Published: July 4, 2013
Copyright: 2013 The Associated Press

Bill To License Dispensaries Clears Oregon House

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The House narrowly passed a bill Monday that would license and regulate medical marijuana dispensaries, a proposal that some lawmakers argue would allow more patients to safely access the drug but others worry could heighten abuse of the program.

The state currently allows patients with certain debilitating medical conditions to grow their own marijuana or designate someone else to do it but there isn’t a place to legally purchase the medicine.

Under House Bill 3460, the Oregon Health Authority would set up a registration system of medical marijuana dispensaries, authorizing the transfer of the drug and immature marijuana plants to patients. The facilities would also have to comply with regulations for pesticides, mold and mildew testing, which supporters say will help ensure the drug isn’t contaminated.

The bill passed on a 31-27 vote and is now headed to the Senate.

Rep. Brian Clem, D-Salem, told lawmakers on the floor that when his father-in-law was dying from lung cancer a doctor recommended medical marijuana to help with appetite and chemotherapy.

While he considers marijuana a gateway drug, he supports the bill because of his personal experience.

“I witnessed firsthand what it was like to have somebody be told you need this, you’re going to die. This is the only thing that might make you feel better but figure out some way to buy it off the street if you can figure it out because there’s no way for me to legally get it into your hands and I’m your doctor,” Clem said.

But former Oregon State Police officer Rep. Andy Olson, R-Albany, told lawmakers the bill does little to address the abuses in the state’s medical marijuana program.

“It’s not that I’m opposed to medical marijuana. I’m a major advocate for those who are in need of marijuana as a medicine. I am opposed to the abuse,” he said.

In a lengthy floor speech, Olson talked about various concerns he had about the bill including federal law enforcement, drug trafficking, public safety, Rick Simpson’s hemp oil and out-of-state and youth access to the drug.

Olson read from a 2012 story by The Oregonian about how drug traffickers have exploited the state’s medical marijuana program.

He told lawmakers he would be committed to working with the other party on a more comprehensive bill to correct the abuses in program and provide the access the patients need.

The bill’s lead sponsor Rep. Peter Buckley, D-Ashland, and other lawmakers argued while the bill doesn’t fix every problem in the program it’s a step in the right direction.

“The black market of medical marijuana is out of hand,” he said. “The ability to trace with accuracy cardholders and growers is extremely problematic.”

Supporters of the bill include medical marijuana dispensaries, the American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon, Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum and other advocacy groups.

Medical marijuana facilities would pay a registration fee of $4,000 each, according to the bill’s fiscal note. If an estimated 225 facilities register, the state would receive about $900,000 in the next two years. Revenue from the fees would help offset the cost of creating and running a new registration system.

Marijuana is still illegal under federal law, meaning it has no accepted medical use.

Source: Statesman Journal (OR)
Author: Queenie Wong, Statesman Journal
Published: June 24, 2013
Copyright: 2013 Statesman Journal
Contact: [email protected]

Buckley Supports Marijuana Legalization

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State Rep. Peter Buckley has thrown his support behind Measure 80, an initiative that would legalize, regulate and tax marijuana consumed by adults.

“Overall, legalization would take the black market out of Oregon,” said Buckley, D-Ashland, who has served as co-chairman of the Legislature’s Ways and Means Committee for the past two sessions. He said he supports regulating marijuana in a manner similar to the regulation of alcohol under the Oregon Liquor Control Commission.

Under current laws, he said, medical marijuana has too many legal loopholes that have frustrated law enforcement and left the door open for abuse.

“I do think it’s a problem with some medical marijuana growers,” he said. “They’ve gotten greedy.”

Oregon voters will decide this November on the Oregon Cannabis Tax Act, a citizen’s initiative campaign to regulate cannabis and encourage production of hemp.

According to the YES on 80 campaign, legalizing marijuana could save $60 million annually in law enforcement costs, while taxing it could bring in an extra $140 million. Under the proposal, marijuana would be purchased through state-run stores.

Buckley, who said he’s not a marijuana user and doesn’t have a medical marijuana card, said the federal government likely would question Oregon’s authority to legalize the drug if voters pass the measure, but he thinks that if enough states pass similar initiatives it could change the national debate.

“Hopefully, the federal government will see the light,” he said.

The new law will provide a clearer legal distinction for law enforcement in how to prosecute anyone furnishing marijuana to minors, Buckley said. The law still would make it illegal to drive under the influence of marijuana or to use it in public places.

Roy Kaufmann, spokesman for the YES on 80 campaign, said the law could add to Oregon’s image as a tourist destination, similar to the effect of the Oregon wine and beer industry.

Also, the initiative would create another growth industry in the state, he said. “Agricultural hemp will dwarf the marijuana market within a decade,” Kaufmann predicted.

Other states, including Washington and Colorado, may take up similar initiatives to legalizing marijuana. If enough states support legalization, Kaufmann said, “It would really force the federal government’s hand on this issue.”

He said the marijuana law has been written in a way to stand up to federal scrutiny.

Kaufmann said the prohibition of marijuana has been a failure in this country.

State Rep. Dennis Richardson, R-Central Point, said Oregon’s medical marijuana laws are “grossly abused,” but said he has too many questions about Measure 80 to support it.

“I am very much troubled by the current medical marijuana law,” said Richardson, who served as a co-chairman with Buckley on the Ways and Means Committee. “It is basically legalization through a back-door approach.”

He said the right to smoke pot is now being advertised as a simple matter of spending $100 to find the right doctor.

Richardson said he doesn’t support legalizing marijuana. But he said the state needs to have a rational debate about whether it wants to legalize cannabis or take a different approach and crack down on violations.

He said Measure 80 will at least get voters talking about medical marijuana laws, though he doubts the voters in his fairly conservative district would support the initiative.

While Measure 80 would raise tax dollars, Richardson said he’s reluctant to create a new state bureaucracy to keep track of the process.

He said he’s also concerned about creating another “sin tax,” in addition to the dollars the state already collects through gambling, cigarettes and alcohol.

Richardson, who doesn’t have a medical marijuana card, said he would consider using marijuana if he had a serious medical condition.

Source: Mail Tribune, The (Medford, OR)
Author: Damian Mann, Mail Tribune
Published: September 18, 2012
Copyright: 2012 The Mail Tribune
Contact: [email protected]

Measure 80 Would Legalize Pot, Allow Research

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If Oregonians pass Measure 80 in the November election, the state would legalize marijuana for adults, but more importantly to Todd Dalotto, it would open the doors for medical research on the plant.

“If it’s free from legal roadblocks, then patients can benefit greatly from the research that takes place in horticulture, in medicine,” Dalotto said Monday in front of the City Club of Corvallis.  “Unfortunately, clinical research is hindered to a prohibitive degree, mainly because of federal prohibition.”

Dalotto, a longtime cannabis horticultural researcher and president of CAN! Research, Education and Consulting in Corvallis, offered his take on Measure 80 to the group on Monday.  Sandee Burbank, executive director of Mothers Against Misuse and Abuse, also spoke in favor of the measure at the club’s monthly meeting.

If passed, the Oregon Cannabis Tax Act would create a commission that would license growers, buy and sell the product, and test it for quality assurance.  Adults, ages 21 and older, would be able to legally purchase cannabis from state-run stores or grow it, unregulated, for personal use.

In his presentation, Dalotto explained that each strain of the plant contains different properties.  With more research, scientists will be able to isolate the parts of the plant, on a molecular level, that contain positive medicinal values and breed out negative properties, he said.

Currently, however, researchers must get the go-ahead from multiple federal agencies before studying marijuana – a nearly impossible undertaking, he said.

Burbank spoke to the group about the need for more accurate education about drugs, including the potential harm of over-the-counter and legally prescribed medicine, alcohol and tobacco.  Marijuana, she believes, has medicinal value and is much less harmful than some legal drugs.  In 1982, her organization declared that marijuana laws were “inequitable, ineffective, unenforceable and counterproductive.”

Attendees questioned how the new legislation would affect black market demand for marijuana.  Burbank and Dalotto believe it would be curtailed.

“The reason it’s so profitable is because of prohibition, because it’s unregulated,” Dalotto said.

The speakers also touched on the benefits of legalizing the cultivation of cannabis to produce hemp, a product with multiple uses that can be made into fabric and rope.  It requires less fertilizer and water and produces four times the amount of fiber that trees do, Dalotto said.

Hemp production would provide Oregon with an economically friendly export crop, he added.

If the legislation should pass, one attendee asked, how would the federal government – which classifies marijuana as a dangerous drug – respond?

“There would be significant challenges from the feds,” Dalotto said, “but the measure does provide revenue to fund the attorney general’s defense of this, and that’s fully anticipated.”

Revenue from licenses would pay administrative costs of the commission, and 90 percent of the remaining money would be placed in the state’s general fund.  The remaining 10 percent would be split among funds for related uses, such as drug education and research grants.

The City Club invited the Corvallis Police Department to offer a differing opinion on the measure, but the department declined.

Source: Corvallis Gazette-Times (OR)
Copyright: 2012 Lee Enterprises
Author: Canda Fuqua

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