The Coalition for Patient's Rights turned in more than 110,000 signatures to the Oregon Secretary of State’s Office this year in hopes of getting a dispensary initiative on the November ballot. "When we drafted the original Oregon Medical Marijuana Act, we didn't include provisions for dispensaries because federal law prohibited that," said John Sajo, executive director of the Voter Power Foundation, which organized the petition drive. "Now that the Obama administration has indicated that they will allow states to regulate medical marijuana, Oregon needs to create a regulated system so every patient can access quality controlled medicine.”
Considering it takes less than 83,000 signatures to qualify, it is almost guaranteed to happen. After the signatures are validated, a name will be officially assigned to the measure. A common delay tactic in the Oregon initiative process is to challenge the name of the measure; the challenge will get tossed out of course, but it won’t stop neo cons like Kevin Mannix from doing it anyways. "My gut check is they're breaking faith with the voters," Kevin Mannix said. "I'm not saying they have broken faith. But we'll go back to promises that were made when medical marijuana was on the ballot in 1998." Campaign advertising has to be put on hold until the challenge is decided, so look for that to happen, but don’t worry, it is a common occurrence in Oregon initiative politics.
After the measure name and number are assigned, it will be all out warfare between medical marijuana advocates and a coalition of ‘reefer madness’ fanatics. Both sides will include familiar faces; the pro-dispensary side will include NORML, ASA, MPP, TCHF, Oregon Green Free, MAMAS, etc and the anti-dispensary side will include law enforcement, Lars Larson, the Oregon GOP, quacks from who knows where, etc. As an Oregon political nerd, I am very excited to see what types of campaign strategies will be used.
The big question that I get from friends and family is ‘do you think it will pass?’ As a medical marijuana patient, and someone who is surrounded by other medical marijuana patients in my area, I would say yes. However, the idea was already defeated once in 2004, so a guaranteed victory is far from certain. Quite a bit has happened since 2004 in regards to dispensaries, both positive and negative. Dispensaries like those found in Oakland, CA have integrated into the community extremely well, voluntarily raising their tax rates and putting money back into the local community. On the other hand, other municipalities have had a much harder fight over medical marijuana dispensary policies and rules, and the image of a medical marijuana dispensary has suffered as a result.
Here are the facts and my analysis about Initiative 28 - The Oregon Regulated Medical Marijuana Supply System:
1. It does not add or take away from the current list of qualifying conditions. It would be nice to add more conditions, but with that being said, at least there’s none being taken away!
2. “Dispensary” means any nonprofit entity, including the directors, employees or agents of such an entity, licensed to possess, produce, deliver, transport, supply and dispense usable medical marijuana and medical marijuana plants to registry identification cardholders and to other dispensaries. Dispensaries may also assist patients with other products and services including equipment, supplies, and educational materials. I’m always leery of the term ‘nonprofit’ because law enforcement and prosecutors can take advantage of such a subjective term. Does nonprofit allow donations to be paid to ‘volunteers’ and employees, are bonuses allowed, and how are salaries determined? To me, it seems like if the terms are grey, people will take advantage of them, and in return, law enforcement and prosecutors will then take advantage of EVERYTHING. I think it would be better to just have them labeled as ‘for profit,’ and tax everything and keep the process clear and open…maybe that’s just me…
3. “Licensed medical marijuana producer” or “producer” means a person or an entity licensed to produce medical marijuana and medical marijuana plants for dispensaries. A licensed medical marijuana producer may be an individual Oregon resident and the employees of the individual or a licensed dispensary and the directors and employees of the dispensary.
4. The Oregon Department of Human Services shall establish a regulated medical marijuana supply system. No general fund revenue shall be used to establish the system. The system shall be funded through program fees. This begs the question; if there are no funds to hire the first DHS employee to issue paperwork, how are the first fees going to be collected? When the program is up and running, funding will work itself out of course. However, in order to get the dispensary program off the ground, it is going to need some borrowed start up funds first. I just really hope that this doesn’t become a sticking point after voters approve the initiative and neo cons use it as a loophole to never fund the program…
5. Patients can still grow their own medical marijuana. That’s all I ask!!! Dispensary systems that give the government the monopoly on medical marijuana production, and take away the right of the patient to grow their own, are doomed to fail…Just look at how New Jersey’s implementation is going…
6. Creates a scientific research program housed by DHS. The department may provide grants to persons in this state to conduct such research. Research may include developing quality control, purity, and labeling standards for medical marijuana dispensed through the system. Annual reports are required. YES!!! FINALLY!!! When science meets marijuana, the truth is undeniable!
7. A licensed producer may provide medical marijuana and medical marijuana plants to licensed dispensaries and be reimbursed for the costs associated with the production of the medical marijuana and medical marijuana plants. This type of language is very subjective. The Oregon criminal law attorneys that I have talked to interpret this as reimbursement for nutrients, electricity, etc, but DOES NOT INCLUDE TIME AND LABOR. So selling a pound of med to a dispensary for $3,000 won’t fly; you can only sell it to the dispensary for a proportional amount of your total bills and supplies. And what does that really work out to (not much obviously, that’s the name of the game right!?). I know I would love to grow a bunch of top notch medical and sell it to a dispensary, but I’m not going to do it if I’m just reimbursed for my supplies!
8. Felonies that included violence or theft within the last 5 years bars participation in a dispensary. Drug related offenses are not referenced. I personally would like certain drug felonies included on the banned list. I don’t think if you ran a meth lab ring that you should be allowed to open a dispensary…maybe that’s just me…
9. Have to be over 21 to own and/or work at a dispensary. I think if you are old enough to get a medical card, you are old enough to work at and/or own a dispensary. Why not? If the person is not responsible or good at it, the ‘invisible hand’ of economics will weed them out.
10. Any dispensary, or any location used by a licensed producer to produce medical marijuana is subject to reasonable inspection by the department. I guess it depends on what is ‘reasonable?’ Is ‘reasonable’ determined by law enforcement, dispensary owners, a third party…?
11. All dispensaries and producers shall submit quarterly reports on all of their financial transactions, including transfers for no consideration. No problems with that.
12. Dispensaries and producers shall pay to the department quarterly fees equal to 10 percent of their gross revenue. No problem with that, raising funds via medical marijuana is what we have been fighting for! Just give us the chance!
13. DHS has to come up with rules for the following things within 6 months of the initiative’s passage:
(a) Permissible locations for dispensaries; initially dispensaries shall not be established within 1,000 feet of any school or within residential neighborhoods;
(b) Minimum requirements for security plans of dispensaries; and
(c) Penalties for dispensaries if directors or employees of a dispensary are convicted of criminal violations involving the operation of the dispensary.
14. The initial fee for a dispensary license is $2,000. Sounds reasonable to me, others can feel free to disagree (just make sure to say in your comment what you think is reasonable!).
15. Proof of Oregon residency, but no duration of previous residency required. I would personally like to see a ‘duration of residency’ requirement. One of the biggest complaints about dispensaries is that people flood into the area from out of state. I think a 2 year residency requirement would be good, in order to help keep money local and keep rookies out until they learn the ropes….Oregon has a different taste than other states…
16. Creates a separate producer system where a nonrefundable $1,000 fee is paid to DHS. What I don’t understand is dispensary owners/producers are going to be held to the current limits that are in place; only 4 patients per name and/or grow address. So the maximum amount of plants that a dispensary owner/producer can have, regardless of fees, is 24 mature plants and 72 immature plants, and 6 pounds. I have a way around that (you can call it a ‘medical marijuana card’ pyramid), but I will wait to see what DHS says before I release it in a separate story. As is right now, this can be the biggest sticking point of the initiative. I know many people that are growing four cards worth in their garden, and there is NO WAY that it will maintain a dispensary; I have heard that busy dispensaries go through A LOT of medicine…Way more than 24 plants worth…
17. Can sell to any patient in the registry — not a caregiver cooperative or whatever. This is good, I would like to be able to go into a dispensary anywhere in the state and get access to medicine. That’s what dispensaries are all about!
18. Must operate under Oregon non-profit laws except in the area of taxes. This is very confusing. Again, why not just label them as ‘for profit’ and quit the BS. Dispensary owners are going to generate A LOT of tax revenue for the State. When the system is labeled as ‘nonprofit’ law enforcement can use this to say that people are in violation, regardless of how small or large the compensation…
19. Same privacy rules for dispensary owners and employees as patients currently have. That’s good; we don’t want a situation where dispensary owner’s private addresses are published for the world to see in local newspapers like Billings, Montana.
20. A law enforcement officer who determines that a dispensary or producer cardholder is in possession of amounts of usable marijuana or numbers of marijuana plants in excess of the amount or number authorized by this Act may confiscate only any usable marijuana or plants that are in excess of the amount or number authorized. This is probably the most awesome thing ever. Cops are known for taking stuff first, asking questions later. This provision will protect against such abuses!
The other question that I get from friends and family is ‘how will this affect me if it passes.’ Well, if you grow marijuana for sale on the black market, you need to either open a dispensary or know someone that does! You will be pushed out of biz, or at least see a significant hit in your profit margin. That’s something the government doesn’t realize; when dispensaries are allowed, the black market suffers tremendously. As a result, much more tax revenue is generated, patients get better access to medicine, and the whole system is open and regulated…But then again that’s just too logical huh?