The first week of recreational marijuana sales in Oregon resulted in over $11 million dollars worth of marijuana being sold according to several media outlets. I'm not sure where that number is being pulled from, but regardless of how close to the exact dollar amount the figure is, I think that we can all agree that Oregon medical marijuana dispensaries sold A LOT of recreational flower since sales started on October 1st. I read an article on the Oregon Cannabis Connection website that did a great job of highlighting calls from activists for using this new found source of revenue to help low income Oregon Medical Marijuana Program (OMMP) patients. Below is an excerpt from that article, via the Oregon Cannabis Connection:
A few years ago the Oregon Health Authority fees for the medical program increased by double, they stopped offering reduced fees to qualifying low income patients, and even added additional fees like a "change of grower" fee. Now that the state will likely have a massive surplus of tax revenue from the recreational market, the opportunity to remove the onerous fee structure they placed on patients is apparent, but patient advocates aren't holding their breaths.
Anthony Tayor of Compassionate Oregon, one of the states leading patient advocacy groups, explained to OCC, "Prior to the start of early adult sales we advocated for dispensaries to set aside some of the revenue recreational sales generate to subsidize patient costs."
"It would be wonderful if the legislature could come up with a scenario that would do just that," Taylor added. "Unfortunately they are awfully fond of the extra revenue being generated by patients to advance such a plan."
Clinics that have seen the higher fees the past few years understand what the patients experience. And, considering that adult sales would have never happened without the medical marijuana program, Keith McCann, the Executive Director of Compassion Center in Eugene, explained, "I believe the success of the medical program is what got this cannabis movement going here in Oregon."
"We need to relieve the patients from the burden and expense of entering in to the ommp," McCann explained further. "I can't see any other justified reason not to, and with 11 million in revenue, it would be shameful not to give back to the medical patient community by making it affordable to obtain or renew your card."
Oregon's Advisory Committee on Medical Marijuana, or ACMM, advises the Oregon Health Authority on the fee structure every year, and they have long thought the fees were too high.
"We have always believed that the standard fee of $200 was too high for this self-supporting program," explained Cheryl Smith, Chair of the ACMM. "In light of all the new income that is expected to be forthcoming from adult use cannabis taxation, it seems even more timely to bring the fee down to a reasonable sum."
I have always had a tremendous amount of respect and admiration for Anthony Taylor. He has worked very hard to represent the OMMP community at the Oregon State Capital in Salem, and I tip my hat to the work he has done, and the work he will do in the future. I hope that every dispensary in Oregon that sells recreational marijuana listens to what Anthony Taylor and others are saying. I used to be an OMMP patient, but was pushed out of the program when it became too expensive to afford, and there are patients out there that are much worse off than I am for sure, so I can only imagine how hard things are for them.
I know that Canna and the City in the Portland, Oregon area has already set up a 'compassion fund' for patients that are experiencing financial hardships. Imagine if every dispensary was doing that. I tip my hat to Canna and the City, and urge all readers to frequent their dispensary to show them how much you appreciate dispensaries that 'get it.' They are located at 3607 SW Corbett Ave, Portland, OR 97239 Contact your legislators and let them know that now that recreational marijuana sales are allowed in Oregon, that it's time to revisit the OMMP's fee amounts. If the Oregon Legislature made some necessary changes AND dispensaries set up compassion funds, I think that it would help virtually every patient that is experiencing financial hardships. With so much money flying around right now, there's simply no excuse to not make it happen. We can do this Oregon, let's show some compassion!