Buying Medical Marijuana From A Storefront Dispensary Is Becoming Common In Oregon, But Is It Legal?
If you live in Oregon, or know medical marijuana patients here, than you probably know that there are new collectives opening up almost daily. I was just in Salem, Oregon checking out some dispensaries per a friend's request, and it seems like there are more dispensaries in that little metro area than anyone would probably ever believe. I visited 10 of them and I there were still so many others to see that I finally gave up.
I had interesting conversations with most of the owners, which revolved around what 'collective model' they were using. It never ceases to amaze me how little the owners knew about Oregon law, and about the possible ramifications of what they were doing. Let me be clear, I think every medical marijuana patient should have safe access to medicine, whether it be growing it themselves, obtaining it from a friend, or purchasing it from a dispensary/collective. However, let's be honest, the 'grey areas' that people always refer to in Oregon are not as grey as people think.
Unlike California and Colorado, Oregon does not have state level legislation that regulates collectives. People can try to play the word game and say 'we are not a dispensary, we are a collective, or club, or resource center.' But, in the eyes of Oregon law, if cash comes in and marijuana comes out, then the establishment is the same type of entity no matter what name you give it. From there it becomes a proof game if someone is caught. Was the collective operating as a true non-profit? Was the collective operating as a semi-profit/non-profit? Or was the collective making money. According to Oregon law, making any money off of medical marijuana is illegal. Yes you can be reimbursed for the direct costs of the garden, but being reimbursed for direct costs doesn't include rent at a collective, etc.
I once wrote an article Are Oregon Medical Marijuana 'Dispensaries' Legal? Backlash from Oregon collective owners was almost immediate. I encourage everyone to read it with an open mind, because after all, it could mean the difference between freedom and incarceration. If I'm wrong I'm wrong, but I think the black and white letter of the law speaks for itself.
There are two parts of the law that are the most relevant to the topic of medical marijuana sales in Oregon:
475.304 (7) A registry identification cardholder or the designated primary caregiver of the cardholder may reimburse the person responsible for a marijuana grow site for the costs of supplies and utilities associated with the production of marijuana for the registry identification cardholder. No other costs associated with the production of marijuana for the registry identification cardholder, including the cost of labor, may be reimbursed. [2005 c.822 §8; 2007 c.573 §2; 2009 c.595 §966]
475.316 (1) No person authorized to possess, deliver or produce marijuana for medical use pursuant to ORS 475.300 to 475.346 shall be excepted from the criminal laws of this state or shall be deemed to have established an affirmative defense to criminal charges of which possession, delivery or production of marijuana is an element if the person, in connection with the facts giving rise to such charges: (d) Delivers marijuana for consideration to any individual, even if the individual is in possession of a registry identification card;
To sum up, an OMMP patient can reimburse the medical marijuana grower for the costs of 'supplies' and utilities that were used to produce the medical marijuana. However, the medical marijuana grower can't deliver marijuana for consideration (profit in anyway at all, not just money), even to another OMMP patient. Law enforcement will tell you that the law is very straight forward - if you sell medical marijuana in anyway, it's illegal.
Few things shock me more than the things Oregon collective owners say their attorneys told them. One collective owner told me his attorney said Oregon passed laws that allow collectives, so what is the big fuss about. I told him I wish he could go back in time and give me the $15,000 retainer and I would have referred him to the statutes mentioned above! Again, to clarify, I don't have any problem with people opening questionable collectives. I think marijuana should be legal and sold widely. However, many collective owners are kidding themselves if they think they are invincible because of their medical cards.
Why such a negative tone this morning? Why the doom and gloom? Because all signs are pointing towards a statewide crackdown on medical marijuana collectives, and no one seems to see it and/or care. I can't fully blame them though, as there seems to be some kind of mainstream media hush over a recent medical marijuana collective raid last week in Eugene, Oregon. This very raid could be the tip of the iceberg and a foreshadowing of what's about to happen.
Below is an excerpt from an article on Examiner.Com written by a very talented, hardworking activist in Oregon named Jennifer Alexander.
"Curtis Shimmin and his nephew, Austin Mullins, were pulled over in separate traffic stops on Thursday, August 30, 2012. Although neither vehicle was searched nor was marijuana present in either vehicle, according to Shimmin, both Shimmin and Mullins were arrested on multiple charges related to marijuana. The charges were apparently related to Shimmin's thriving medical marijuana club, Club Kannabosm, which opened in May of 2011 at 401 West 11th Avenue in Eugene Oregon.
Later that evening, while both Shimmin and Mullins remained in custody, five search warrants were executed on properties including Shimmin's residence and the medical marijuana club. Shimmin believes that Oregon State Police Officer David Glass was in charge of the investigation and searches were executed by Lane County Interagency Narcotics Team (INET). Officer Glass could not be reached for comment at this time.
In addition to impounding both vehicles in the traffic stops and all medical marijuana found in the searches, three patient gardens were "harvested" by police during the searches, according to Shimmin, and all electronics (including computers, video surveillance equipment and phones) were also seized. Personal bank accounts, as well as funds related to Club Kannabosm and funds related to a beverage company also owned by Shimmin, were seized as well. Shimmin states that officers even took an ATM machine that was leased for use in the medical marijuana club."
To date there have been three 'media recognized' medical marijuana collective raids in Oregon. The first two were in Washington County, which is home to an overzealous, anti-medical marijuana Sheriff's Office and was always seen as isolated to that county. The third raid was in Salem, Oregon, and was led by the city police and came as a result of a separate investigation. The raid of Kannabosm is very significant, because it appears to have been led by the Oregon State Police. In other states it's almost always the feds leading the raids with the help of the local police. If the Kannabosm raid was indeed led by the Oregon State Police, I can't see any reason why they wouldn't be going after other establishments in the near future.
I have been to some collectives that are truly non-profit, and have nothing to worry about. But be honest collective owners of Oregon, not all of you are operating as you should be, are you? I was at a collective the other day that was charging $15 per gram...I won't name names, but if I was you, I would really reconsider changing the way you operate, or if you want to completely avoid the wrath of the Oregon State Police, maybe get out of a storefront altogether?
It will be a sad day for safe access in Oregon if there is a statewide crackdown, but I hope if that does happen, there comes out of it something productive. Oregon had it's chance to enact a well crafted dispensary law in 2010 with Measure 74. Had it passed, the Oregon State Police wouldn't be involved in medical marijuana collective raids. Collectives are obviously popular, have never been a nuisance, and provide a vital service to suffering people. It's time to get rid of the 'grey areas' of the OMMP and put in a system that works. Otherwise, all collectives in Oregon could be experiencing the same scenario that Kannabosm is currently in.