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Bill To License Dispensaries Clears Oregon House

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

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