By Alfa · Oct 24, 2004 ·
  1. Alfa

    Measure 33 Debate Pins Access to Medical Marijuana Against Fears Of
    Abuse to the System

    There are seven people in the United States who can legally smoke
    marijuana in any state they want.

    They're part of the Investigational New Drug program, which offers one
    half-pound of medical marijuana a month for each member. These IND
    patients have what many Oregon medical marijuana patients don't --
    guaranteed medicine.

    Measure 33 proponents believe dispensaries would better serve Oregon
    Medical Marijuana Program patients.

    "When you're disabled, have cancer, or are blind, you may not have
    that much money to go and find some medicine," said Doug McVay,
    assistant director of Voter Power, the group fighting to pass Measure

    Dispensaries will be required to provide free marijuana to patients
    who can't afford the care.

    Before Measure 67 created the OMMP in 1998, opponents predicted
    widespread abuses, but none were reported in a May 2000 review of the

    Stormy Ray, who campaigned for the original medical marijuana
    initiative, worries that black-market growers will abuse the system
    despite state inspections.

    "Measure 33 has record-keeping only of what is going out the door, not
    what is grown. It would be easy to divert excess," she said.

    But McVay thinks scrutiny from the state and pressure from patients
    will be enough.

    "If there's abuse in the system, patients will scream the

    Ray has looked at California dispensaries (legal since 1996), and says
    the problems they solved have been offset by problems they created.

    "Some dispensaries started charging more than street prices because
    the supply was now safe and regulated," she said.

    McVay disagrees and says that similar problems won't occur because
    Oregon dispensaries would be nonprofit. Dispensary competition will
    alter the price, but ultimately, patients determine the cost.

    "Patient pressure and market forces will shut them down," he

    Dispensaries must submit reports to the state, and profits will be
    taxed to offset program costs, which are estimated at $340,000 to
    $560,000 a year with an additional one-time cost of $135,000.
    Dispensary taxes and fees may reduce the total cost to $75,000. The
    OMMP Web site shows the March 2004 program had a surplus of over $900,000.

    While he opposes Measure 33, Ray sees advantages to

    "You don't want only one strain; you don't want one bottle in your
    medicine cabinet. One strain is good for pain. Another is good for
    migraines. Dispensaries may have that but I would object to the

    Another controversial provision allows patients who grow only one crop
    outdoors to keep up to 6 pounds -- the amount IND patients receive.

    The ability to grow enough for a year will work for some. But, as
    McVay point out, hailstorms, heavy rains or thieves could destroy that
    year's crop and leave patients without medicine -- another reason for

    Other patients grow indoors where plants can be grown year-round. But
    indoor equipment can be expensive and can fail from disease, pests or
    lack of growing knowledge.

    Director of National Drug Control Policy John Walters has called
    Measure 33 legalization in disguise. "What's really going on is that
    sick and dying people are being used as a political prop to legalize
    marijuana," Walters said.

    McVay, frustrated at Walters' comment, disagrees.

    "This isn't about social use. This is about patients."

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