Oregon was among the first states to recognize the importance of making medicinal marijuana available to ailing patients.
However, like California, the state failed to enact protections for the marijuana dispensaries from which the plant could be distributed.
Now, our Oregon marijuana lawyers understand that could soon change. House Bill 3460 would effectively legitimize the state's medical marijuana industry, providing patients with safe, reliable access without intermittently being forced to turn to the black market.
The bill passed narrowly in the state House by a margin of 31-27, primarily along party lines, with no Republicans voting in favor of the measures. Opponents say the bill doesn't do enough to prevent the diversion of the drugs to the black market. Proponents maintains that safe access has been a problem since the state first legalized the drug for medical purposes back in 1998.
The law allows those who qualify for access to medical marijuana due to some debilitating condition to grow it on their own or to have someone do it for them. The problem is that marijuana can be a fickle plant. It's not as easy to cultivate as one might think. For someone who is chronically or terminally ill, it's skill and time they don't have.
Finding someone who can grow it reliably, they say, is tough. Because storefront marijuana dispensaries aren't legal, many end up turning to dealers who sell it illicitly.
There are currently about a dozen other states that have enacted legislation that specifically allows for medical marijuana dispensaries. This measure would make Oregon one of those.
There are medical marijuana collective and clubs checkered throughout the state, but the have been the subject of intense scrutiny, law enforcement raids and federal prosecutions. Some of the operators of those establishments are facing prosecution, namely in Washington, Malheur, Lane and Jackson counties.
It's difficult to say exactly how many marijuana retailers and/or dispensaries there are in Oregon, though it is believed by lawmakers to be somewhere in the ballpark of 200. The problem is that because they are not licensed, they aren't tracked or regulated by any government agency. Officials say this is a major problem because it's unknown how much money or marijuana is coursing through the veins of these places.
Of course, it's a lose-lose for the dispensaries too because they have no guidelines to go by. Those who strive to operate a legitimate facility to offer a public service could face criminal charges. While federal law has yet to change, a lack of even a state law for protection leaves these operations vulnerable to aggressive enforcement action from both local and federal authorities.
HB 3460 has received the endorsement of Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum and would establish a statewide registry of medical cannabis retailers. It would require owners to pass criminal background checks and it would track the amount of marijuana being distributed at each site, with assurances that the product is received by growers who are registered by the state. That product would also be required to undergo testing for purity.
The vote in the House was closer than some expected it might be, so we now eagerly await the outcome of the Senate vote.
The CANNABIS LAW Group represents growers, dispensaries, collectives, patients and those facing marijuana charges. Call us at 714-937-2050.
Medical marijuana retail outlet bill passes Oregon House; now heads to Senate, June 24, 2013, By Noelle Crombie, The Oregonian
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