A bill that would make it harder for people to qualify for a medical marijuana card and tighten controls on the people growing it has been revived by former state troopers in the Legislature.
State lawmakers opted not to move forward with any of the 20 bills that attempted to change Oregon's medical marijuana laws. But a small bi-partisan coalition of legislators has breathed new life into this controversial issue some thought tabled for the session, reports Kimberly Melton of The Oregonian.
House Bill 3664 gets a hearing Thursday afternoon in Salem in the House Rules Committee. One of the most controversial proposals in the bill is a requirement to provide a database of marijuana growers and their locations to the Oregon State Police. The agency would then create rules about how police could access the information.
Now, police can request information from the program during an ongoing investigation. Wolfe said attempts to expand that access will lead to abuse. Already, he says law enforcement make as many as 100,000 inquiries annually.
The bill sets a higher standard for doctors to authorize medical marijuana cards for patients, and imposes tougher restrictions on authorizing marijuana for people under 18.
Under current law, doctors can prescribe marijuana if they believe it may be of value to the patient. With the changes, doctors would need to document specific therapeutic value. The current bill went to the Rules Committee, which has later deadlines, making it a haven for bills that fail to get traction.
About 2,000 doctors currently have patients registered in the Oregon Medical Marijuana Program. More than 38,000 Oregonians hold medical marijuana patient cards, 1 percent of the population. More than 24,000 are registered growers. Patients have to grow their own marijuana or get it from an authorized grower, who cannot charge beyond expenses. Cardholders are limited to six mature plants and a pound and a half of processed cannabis at one time. Voters turned down a measure last year that would have allowed cardholders to buy marijuana from dispensaries.
"We're trying to bring a little bit of control to the medical marijuana act," said Rep. Andy Olson, R-Albany, a retired state police lieutenant, lead sponsor of the bill, and co-chairman of the Rules Committee. He said the bill is aimed at preserving medical marijuana access for patients with legitimate need while cracking down on the patients, growers and caregivers he says are abusing the intent of voters when they approved the law.
Olson points to Montana as a cautionary tale. Barker says the state needs to move now to adjust the law because of the program's rapid growth and to prevent attempts to end the program altogether.
"No one wants sick people denied medicine," Barker said. "But this bill does make doctors pay more attention when writing prescriptions, to know that they are going to be held accountable."