Oregon To Vote On Marijuana Dispensaries
Oregon voters will decide this fall whether to approve a network of medical marijuana dispensaries for approved patients. The Secretary of State Elections Division on Friday announced that the dispensary initiative had enough valid petition signatures to qualify for the November ballot.
Polling shows that the initiative is supported by 59 percent of Oregon voters, according to the Coalition for Patients Rights 2010.
If the dispensary measure becomes law, Oregon would join California, Colorado, Maine, New Jersey, New Mexico, and the District of Columbia in officially allowing medical marijuana shops.
The marijuana dispensary ballot measure is expected to appear on the ballot as Measure 74, reports David Steves at the Eugene Register-Guard.
Supporters say the measure is needed to fix the state’s 12-year-old medical marijuana program, to ensure that patients have a safe and legal supply of medical cannabis.
They also argue that the licensing fees imposed under the measure could generate millions of dollars in additional revenue for the state.
The proposed dispensary network builds upon a 1998 initiative passed by voters legalizing the use of cannabis as medicine by people who are authorized by doctors for such conditions as cancer, HIV, chronic pain and glaucoma.
Under current law, Oregon’s 36,000 residents with doctor-approved medical marijuana cards can legally possess and use marijuana, but they cannot legally buy it. They must either grow their own (the current limit on plants is six) or designate a grower/caregiver (who still cannot be paid for the cannabis) . Or they can choose to obtain their supply on the black market.
Supporters of medical marijuana say those aren’t enough good options, arguing Oregon should once and for all legalize the sale of marijuana to qualified patients.
“When we drafted the original Oregon Medical Marijuana Act, we didn’t include provisions for dispensaries because federal law prohibited that,” said John Sajo, head of the group that helped pass Oregon’s 1998 medical marijuana law.
“But now that the Obama Administration has indicated that they will allow states to regulate medical marijuana, Oregon needs to create a regulated system so that every patient can access quality controlled medicine,” said Sajo, executive director of the Voter Power Foundation, which advocates for medical marijuana patients.
“We support dispensary programs,” said Mike Meno of the Marijuana Policy Project, which lobbies at the state and federal levels for marijuana to be taxed and regulated like alcohol.
“For many patients, they are the best way to get safe access to their medicine,” Meno said.
According to the Elections Division, of the 130,702 signatures turned in for the dispensary measure, 85,848, or 66 percent, were valid.
Measure 33 in 2004 also sought to extend Oregon’s 1998 Medical Marijuana Act by mandating dispensaries, but it was rejected by 57 percent of state voters.
About the author: Steve Elliott, a working journalist since 1982, is editor of Toke of the Town, Village Voice Media’s site covering cannabis news, views, rumor and humor.