Pot activists gather support for MM

posted Oct 15, 2009, 4:00 PM by Ron Boozell   [ updated Sep 17, 2016, 8:53 AM by Ron Boozell ]

Town hall on medical marijuana

Crowd discussed merits and details of Measure 74

By Scott Hammers / The Bulletin

Published Oct 15, 2010 at 05:00AM

A supportive crowd of about 50 people turned out at Bend’s Community Center Thursday evening for a question-and-answer session on Measure 74, the upcoming ballot measure that would permit privately owned shops where medical marijuana cardholders would be able to purchase marijuana.

Sarah Duff, assistant clinical director for Oregon Green Free Services and one of the panelists Thursday, said more than half of the state’s cardholders are believed to have a difficult time securing a regular supply of marijuana. About half of the prospective cardholders she meets through her Portland clinic have no idea where they’ll get marijuana, and about a quarter plan on trying to grow their own — a process that is more difficult than it might appear.

“It’s three to six months for patients to get their first crop, and that’s if they’re growing correctly,” Duff said. “Most patients are growing for the first time, and there are crop failures.”

Jeremy Kwit said even those cardholders who are supplied by state-certified growers often don’t have a steady supply, as experienced growers are also subject to crop failure and rarely have consistent harvests throughout the year.

The event was sponsored by High Desert Patients Group, a nonprofit started in August by Kwit, who is looking to open a medical marijuana dispensary in Bend if the measure passes.

If approved by voters, Measure 74 would build on Oregon’s original 1998 medical marijuana act by authorizing nonprofit dispensaries and a new class of producers, who would be permitted to keep up to 24 mature marijuana plants and six pounds of marijuana for sale to licensed dispensaries.

The dispensaries would not be permitted within residential neighborhoods or within 1,000 feet of a school, and growers and dispensary employees would be subject to criminal background checks.

Both dispensaries and producers would be subject to a 10 percent tax on their sales, which could generate up to $20 million for the state, according to a financial impact statement prepared by state officials. A portion of the tax would be diverted to fund research into medical marijuana and help low-income cardholders purchase marijuana.

Formal opposition to Measure 74 has largely come from law enforcement, and has suggested the measure fails to deal with problems in the current law. Statements appearing in Oregon’s voters’ pamphlet suggest cards are being issued to patients who should not qualify under the current law, and that Measure 74 will complicate efforts to crack down on the illegal marijuana trade.

Kwit said the measure is a step in the right direction that will create a clear distinction between medical and illegal marijuana.

“I think this is the measure that clears that up, because it creates a safe, regulated, zoned supply system that doesn’t exist today,” Kwit said.

Audience members at Thursday’s forum also discussed the steps involved in obtaining a producers license, the state’s role in monitoring the quality of the medical marijuana supply, and the tax obligations of a producer or dispensary organized as a nonprofit. Bend City Council candidate Ron Boozell, who was at the meeting, endorsed Measure 74 as an opportunity to create jobs. He challenged other local candidates to do the same.

Approximately 36,000 Oregonians have been authorized to use marijuana under the state’s existing medical marijuana program. Measure 74 would not change eligibility guidelines for the program.

Kwit said Measure 74 will allow medical marijuana to be treated in the same fashion as other consumer products.

“We don’t grow our own food. If you need pain relief you don’t grow a poppy plant in your front yard so you can extract your own Oxycontin in your kitchen sink,” he said. “This is no different.”