FREE WEED FOR THOSE IN NEED?
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 --
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."