About Measure 33

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Measure Number and Short Name:

Measure 33 Amends Medical Marijuana Act.

Official Title: Amends Medical Marijuana Act: Requires Marijuana Dispensaries for Supplying Patients/Caregivers; Raises Patients’ Possession Limit.

The way it is now: Oregon voters approved a Medical Marijuana Act in 1998 by a vote of 611,190 to 508,263.  The act allows people suffering from cancer, AIDS, and other illnesses to possess small amounts of marijuana and use it to reduce their pain and other symptoms, with the written approval of their physician.  Patients must register with the Oregon Department of Human Services.  Registered patients may grow their own marijuana or get it from a registered caregiver.  No one may sell marijuana.

 The law allows registered patients to possess, deliver, and produce limited amounts of marijuana for their own medical use.  The sale of marijuana, even to registered patients, is prohibited.  There are presently about over 10,200 registered patients under the care of some over 1,400 physicians in Oregon.  The law provides that marijuana may be used in the alleviation of the effects of “debilitating conditions” including cancer, glaucoma, AIDS, and multiple sclerosis.  It may also be used in alleviating appetite loss, severe and chronic pain, persistent nausea, seizures, and muscle spasms.

Oregon residents may apply for a registration card when they have a qualifying debilitating medical condition as certified by a medical doctor (MD) or doctor of osteopathy (DO), licensed in Oregon. Registration fees are $150 for new applications, $100 for renewals, and $50 for patients on the Oregon Health Plan.  Registered patients with cards may possess one ounce of marijuana (without a garden). They may have a garden and grow up to seven plants and possess up to three ounces of usable marijuana at the garden location.   Registered patients may have a designated primary caregiver who grows and harvests the marijuana for them.

Background

Oregon is one of nine states that allow the medical use of marijuana and medical marijuana patients who are not engaged in intrastate commerce to obtain their marijuana are constitutionally protected from federal law in 9th Circuit. The federal government classifies marijuana as a Schedule I drug that has “no currently acceptable medical use, but provides over six pounds of marijuana annually to seven patients.“

According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse, a part of the National Institute of Health, “THC, the main active ingredient in marijuana, produces effects that potentially can be useful for treating a variety of medical conditions … Research is underway to examine the effects of smoked marijuana and extracts of marijuana on appetite stimulation, certain types of pain, and spasticity due to multiple sclerosis.  However, the inconsistency of THC dosage in different marijuana samples poses a major hindrance to valid trials and to the safe and effective use of the drug.  Moreover, the adverse effects of marijuana smoke on the respiratory system will offset the helpfulness of smoked marijuana for some patients.  Finally, little is known about the many chemicals besides THC that are in marijuana, or their possible deleterious impact on patient’s medical conditions.”

An objective analysis including federal government sponsored analysis of medical marijuana should include the conclusion of DEA Administrative law judge, Francis L. Young that “cannabis is one of the safest therapeutically active substances available”. Also, In a 2002 study the U. S. General Accounting Office interviewed law enforcement officials in states with medical marijuana laws.   Over half of these officials said that medical marijuana laws had not greatly affected their law enforcement activities.

Initiative or Referral: This measure, known also as OMMA/2, is a statutory amendment placed on the ballot by initiative petition with 77,872 valid signatures.  Kenneth Scott Brown, John A. Sajo, and Edward Glick were the chief petitioners.

What Measure 33 would do: Registered patients and caregivers could buy medical marijuana at dispensaries licensed and regulated by the state.  Poor patients could get marijuana for free from the dispensaries.  Patients could have up to one pound of marijuana at a time.   If patients or caregivers grow their own, they could grow more plants.

How much will it cost. The measure would cost about $340,000 to $560,000 each year.  Fees and part of the price that patients pay for marijuana would pay most of these costs.

Argument for: People suffering from severe illnesses that could be helped by using marijuana would have a better way to obtain medical marijuana.   Sick and dying patients can’t produce their own medicine.  They should be able to buy medical marijuana at safe regulated dispensaries.

Argument against: Patients don’t need so much marijuana.  These changes in the law would make it more difficult for police to identify illegal growing, selling, and use of marijuana.

Financial Impact: The measure would require a one-time start up cost of $135,000 and expenditures of $340,000 to $560,000 a year.   All but $75,000 of these costs may be offset by fees to be established by the Department of Human Services as provided in the measure.  The financial effect on local government revenues cannot be determined.

“Yes” Vote: If this measure passes it would amend the current law to:
(1) require the creation of medical marijuana dispensaries to supply patients and/or caregivers;
(2) allow dispensaries or caregivers to sell marijuana to patients; and
(3) increase the amount of medical marijuana patients may possess.

“No” Vote: If this measure fails, it would retain the current Oregon Medical Marijuana Act which allows registered patients to possess limited amounts of marijuana for medical purposes and prohibits marijuana sales.

Proposal

The proposal would create licensed, nonprofit medical marijuana dispensaries regulated by the Oregon Department of Human Services to produce, possess, and sell marijuana to registered patients and/or caregivers.  A registered patient could receive up to six pounds of marijuana a year.  Registration fees for dispensaries and patients, plus 10 to 20% of the proceeds of the sales would be used to fund the program.  Dispensaries would be required to provide medical marijuana free of charge to indigent patients who meet the criteria of the Department of Human Services.  In counties without registered dispensaries, the county health department would act as the dispensary.

The measure would limit the number of patients a caregiver could serve to 10 without obtaining a medical marijuana dispensary license.   Current law allows caregivers to grow for an unlimited number of patients.  The measure allows designated caregivers and their registered ID holders to negotiate a price for the marijuana.  The law actually reads, “allows caregivers to be compensated by their patients in any manner agreed on by both parties.”

Licensed nurse practitioners and naturopaths would be added to the definition of “attending physicians” because they also prescribe medicine.  “Debilitating medical condition” would be expanded to include any other medical condition for which the use of marijuana would benefit the patient as determined by the attending physician.

The Oregon Department of Human Services (ODHS) would continue to administer the act.  The amendment includes a new provision for the Department to establish the Oregon Medical Marijuana Commission, comprised of six voting members representing patients, caregivers, dispensaries, law enforcement, criminal defense attorneys, medical profession; and one non-voting member representing the ODHS .  The commission will have the authority to propose rules, veto staff decisions, and suggest legislative changes.   The department will also provide opportunities for (sponsor or conduct are more accurate) research to determine the usefulness of marijuana as medicine, and it will publish annual reports of its data and findings.

The measure requires law enforcement agencies to contact ODHS prior to obtaining a search warrant in any marijuana investigation unless they have specific credible evidence that unlawful activity has occurred.  The following sentence should be a separate paragraph.  The measure retains criminal penalties for non-medical use of marijuana.


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