Ashland Daily Tidings :: Group works to legalize dispensaries :: September 27, 2008
Voter Power, a medical marijuana activist group with an office in Medford, plans to put a measure on a 2010 ballot to create dispensaries in Oregon, similar to those in California.
Under the plan, licensed growers would sell marijuana to the dispensaries, where it will be distributed either at a minimal cost or for free. Customers would need a valid Oregon Medical Marijuana Program card to receive marijuana from dispensaries.
The dispensaries would be taxed and the money would go to other health department programs and help to fund research into medical marijuana, said Alex Rogers, outreach coordinator for Voter Power. A health department regulated program would also be implemented to help patients get access to marijuana.
Voter Power is collecting signatures for its initiative, which was finalized in August, before it can be placed on an upcoming ballot.
If the dispensary system is approved, patients will still be able to grow their own marijuana or select a grower, Rogers said.
“We have a two part strategy — make the best of the current law and at the same time work for a better law,” said John Sajo, Voter Power’s executive director. “The OMMA (Oregon Medical Marijuana Program) has done pretty well at stopping most patients from being arrested, but it has not really addressed how the patients are supposed to get their medicine.”
Rogers said only half of the 20,000 cardholders in Oregon have safe access to medical marijuana.
Dispensaries are prohibited under current law. The Medical Marijuana Program explains, “There is no place in the State of Oregon to legally purchase medical marijuana.”
There are two initiatives trying to get on the ballot in Oregon for 2010, the Voter Power I-28 initiative and the Oregon Cannabis Tax Act or OTCA (full disclosure: I am the Political Director for OCTA). Both initiatives set up a framework for the sales of marijuana to be regulated by the state and both create a system for growers to sell marijuana to the state.
The primary differences are that the I-28 model restricts sales to medical marijuana patients only and allows the sales to be controlled by non-profits, like California’s system; the OCTA allows sales to all adults over 21 and keeps the sales in control of the state through the Oregon Liquor Control Commission.
Will it be confusing to voters to hear from two different marijuana initiative petitioners? Will the patient community be divided over whether to support both or only one initiative? Would the efforts of the community be better focused on passing only one initiative? Will supporters of one group campaign against the initiative of another group? If both get on the ballot and both pass, what then; does the one with more votes win? Do I ask rhetorical questions in order to voice my deep concerns without taking the Stash down the rabbit hole of personal grudges, rumored animosities, tactical disagreements, and assorted detailed idiocies involved in four decades worth of Beaver State marijuana politics?