Oregon Medical Marijuana Initiative Would Establish Dispensaries
New initiative to regulate medical marijuana will turn in signatures Monday January 11, 2010.
(PORTLAND, Ore.) - Backers of a new medical marijuana initiative announced today that they have collected over 75,000 signatures on petitions to place Initiative #28 on the November 2010 ballot.
The new initiative would add a regulated supply system of dispensaries and producers to the current medical marijuana law which requires patients to produce their own medicine.
Backers need 82,769 valid signatures by July 2, 2010 to place the measure on the November ballot. New election laws requires all chief petitioners to turn in signatures collected by paid circulators monthly.
All paid signatures collected so far must be turned in by January 15. Backers of I-28 will hold a press conference in the media room of the State Capitol at 11:00 a.m. Monday January 11 before chief petitioners turn the signatures in to the Secretary of State’s office at 11:30 a.m.
These are the first signatures turned in under the new election law.
“When we drafted the original Oregon Medical Marijuana Act, we didn’t include provisions for dispensaries because federal law prohibited that. 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 every patient can access quality controlled medicine,” said John Sajo, Executive Director of the Voter Power Foundation, a group which advocates for medical marijuana patients.
Current law allows patients to grow 6 mature marijuana plants or to designate a grower to do it for them. For many patients, producing their own medicine is a big headache. But it remains a felony for anyone to sell them marijuana.
I-28 will allow nonprofit dispensaries to sell marijuana to registered patients. Licensed producers will grow the marijuana and sell it to dispensaries. Both dispensaries and producers will be subject to inspection and auditing by the health department. All employees will have to be over 21 years old and pass criminal background checks. Dispensaries can’t be located near schools or in residential areas and must submit security plans with their applications to DHS.
“This initiative gives the Health Department the authority to create a tightly regulated system that will provide access to patients while minimizing abuse.”
I-28 also creates a program administered by the health department which will provide medicine to indigent patients. “Some patients have no money and Medicare or insurance won’t help them get medical marijuana. We need a state program that helps the neediest patients,” said Geri Kulp, clinic director for Voter Power. “The current law is just too hard for the sickest patients.”
The initiative also allows DHS to conduct research into the safety and efficacy of medical marijuana. Backers foresee a process where DHS does the research necessary to establish quality control standards for medical marijuana.
“Right now patients really don’t know much about the medicine they are growing. Quality control standards will result in medicine labeled with the strength of the active ingredients as well as certified to be free of contaminants. This will allow doctors to advise patients about proper dosage," said Sajo. "Research will also indicate how marijuana can be best used for various medical conditions.” I-28 does not change which medical conditions qualify a patient under the Oregon Medical Marijuana Act.
I-28 will be funded by license fees and taxes on dispensaries and producers. The law prohibits using general fund revenue for the program. Advocates say it won’t be necessary. Voter Power Foundation estimates indicate that I-28 will raise $10 million-$40 million the first year. Any revenue exceeding the costs to administer the program will be spent by DHS on other health programs.
Initiative 28 is not the legalization of marijuana. There are several other marijuana initiatives filed. One would legalize marijuana. Another would repeal the Oregon Medical Marijuana Act and replace it with a program of taxpayer subsidized Marinol, a pharmaceutical form of synthetic THC.
Polling commissioned by Voter Power showed that 59% of Oregon voters support the measure and 32% oppose it. Maine voters approved a similar measure on November 4 2009, by a 58%-42% margin.
The Oregon Medical Marijuana Program currently has over 30,000 patients that have been registered by over 3000 different Oregon physicians.
13 states have medical marijuana laws.
California, Colorado, New Mexico, Rhode Island and Maine have medical marijuana laws that allow dispensaries. Arizona will have a dispensary initiative on the 2010 ballot.