(The Oregonian – “Seeing through the smoke” editorial) It’s about time someone took action on the increasing number of medical marijuana dispensaries. The dispensaries are ignoring both the law and the will of Oregonians, who voted in November to defeat Measure 74, which would have legalized state-regulated dispensaries.
Of course, technical violations of the law may not really be the issue here. The original medical marijuana law was full of flaws. Lawmakers who are inclined to try to fix it could start with age restrictions on who can hold a card. Right now, anyone, including teenagers, can apply. A study done by Oregon Partnership found, for example, that 35 percent of students at Wilson High School and 46 percent at Marshall High School knew someone with a card.
Holton has done a good job in pointing to the proliferation of marijuana dispensaries, which may help nip it in the bud, so to speak. But, if Oregon is to continue allowing medical marijuana, then, at least, legislators must work harder to tighten up the rules.
Shame on the Oregonian for parroting the baseless “What About the Children?!?” scare tactic of US Attorney Holton and the majority of Oregon law enforcement. “35 percent of students at Wilson High School and 46 percent at Marshall High School knew someone with a card.” Knew a fellow student or knew someone with an OMMP card? A friend’s parent? A local store clerk? Their own parent? Their parent’s friends? The Oregonian cleverly places the stat in the context of implying high schools are overrun with cardholding minor students.
Unlike the Oregonian editorial board, I check sources (I work for NORML: I have to.) The survey they refer to was addressed at a Marshall High community town hall meeting. The poll was conducted by students as part of a project called “SMASH” in a “confidential, random, peer-to-peer” survey – meaning one high school kid asking another high school kid. We have no control group, no control for confounding variables, not even a mention of the survey size or the randomness of those polled (maybe the SMASH kids are more likely to “randomly” speak to their friend, for instance, or stood in the hall and talked to anyone passing by who would answer.)
But besides all the methodological issues arising from trusting the polling data of high school kids talking to their friends, it’s important to note what their survey actually said:
PERCEPTION: Students surveyed believed that 8 out of 10 students smoke marijuana
REALITY: 7 out of 10 students DO NOT smoke marijuana
Kids surveyed thought 77.3% of others were smoking marijuana. 76.07% of kids never smoked marijuana, another 12.27% smoked it once or twice a month. So, kids think 3 out of 4 other kids smoke pot when 3 out of 4 kids actually don’t. Where, oh, where could the kids be getting the message that youth cannabis smoking is out of control, when, in fact, Oregon’s 12th grade monthly cannabis use rates have declined 14% (before | after) since 1999, when medical marijuana got underway in Oregon.
One could argue that when authority figures are telling kids youth pot smoking is rampant, kids believe “everyone’s doing it” and that peer pressure makes them more likely to want to try it.
REALITY: Almost 1 in 2 students surveyed knows someone who has a medical marijuana card.
Do you know anyone who is prescribed* medical marijuana? 46.63% YES
*Nobody is prescribed medical marijuana; it is “recommended”. Federal prohibition forbids “prescription” of marijuana.
Another REALITY? Of the 40,000 registered medical marijuana patients in Oregon, less than fifty are under the age of 18. That’s one-eighth of one percent of all patients in Oregon. I’ve met one minor on the program in all my six years working with patients in Oregon – a 16-year-old young man with a painful congenital disorder accompanied by his very clean-cut white-bread middle-class non-pot-smoking parents who only allow him to use medicated edibles; no smoking. There simply is no crisis of youth marijuana smoking in Oregon and certainly not one that can be attributed to a medical marijuana program with very strict requirements for qualification.
If the Oregonian is really concerned about the children, these existing cannabis clubs provide much more protection than the unregulated market they and US Attorney Holton seem to be advocating. I’ve visited a number of these clubs and each one – despite me being very well-known to them as a marijuana advocate at the national level – required that I show my Oregon ID and valid medical marijuana program card prior to entry.
US Attorney Holton and 33/34 county D.A.’s would like to you to believe that teens can walk into the state OMMP, complain about a headache, get an OMMP card, walk into a cannabis club and walk out with a pound and a half of marijuana. The truth is that the card is much more difficult to get here and the over 3,000 doctors who have recommended cannabis as medicine in Oregon are especially stringent in reviewing the records of minors for medical marijuana qualification.
Furthermore, these clubs pull the patient community away from the unregulated market’s back alleys, parking lots, and apartment living rooms. There is nothing that a prohibition profiteer hates more than regulated legal competition. Legality removes the prohibition risk tariff, drives down prices, and improves access and quality for patients. It creates jobs in the community, controls the distribution of cannabis far better than prohibition, contributes local tax revenue, and protects patients from unscrupulous growers taking advantage of their desperate need for medicine they can’t just buy at Walgreen’s or CVS.
If the Oregon county D.A.s outside of Multnomah are lacking for better things to do than harass sick and disabled adults trying to be legal consumers in a state with no legal retailers, perhaps they could work on the 72.4% of sex crimes and 80.4% of property crimes that didn’t lead to an arrest in 2009 in Oregon.
Russ Belville, OMMP Caregiver
Outreach Coordinator & Talk Radio Host
National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws