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Oregon Medical Marijuana Takes on Law Enforcement Before Legislators

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(SALEM, Ore.) - An overflow crowd of Oregon Medical Marijuana Program patients and activists came together with law enforcement personnel last Thursday to testify on proposed House Bill 3664 before a committee of the Oregon Legislature.

Oregon House Bill 3664 is controversial, opposed by the cannabis community in its entirety, and promoted by law enforcement purportedly to curb "rampant abuse" of the program.

It takes many components from earlier "dead" bills and compacts them into a single bill, according to Jennifer Alexander, with the OCTA (Oregon Cannabis Tax Act) 2012 campaign.

"At this late date in the session, most other committees can no longer introduce new language, but this particular bill is special because it is a "priority bill" from the Chair of the House Rules Committee, Rep. Andy Olson, which can be introduced later than most other bills."

Olson is a former state police lieutenant with a theory that major drug traffickers are hiding behind the medical marijuana laws.

Attorney Leland Berger who has been representing Oregon marijuana cases since 1983 spoke clearly in his admonition of this bill, and the way it was presented. "You can't have a meeting and not invite us," he reminded legislators.

Berger is the attorney who said to expect "500 patients" in the beginning of OMMA (Oregon Medical Marijuana Act); he says now that the program is only serving 9% of Oregonians with approved conditions, which equates about 500,000 people. The nearly 50,000 now on the program is just a smattering of the actual number of eligible sick and ill patients in our state.

Many believe that a regulated supply system would eliminate many criminal aspects of the marijuana industry. "Measure 74 attempted to rectify (that problem) last November but was defeated," Berger said. Still it garnered 43% of the vote, showing a growing trend toward acceptance of a supply system in Oregon.

"OMMA takes a bite out of the underground market," Berger said. "You want a bigger bite? Create a licensed and regulated market."

One of many proposed changes in requirements for patients in Oregon raised flags immediately.

Currently, the Oregon Medical Marijuana Act makes no claims that the herbal medicine will cure or treat any specific illness; it states that medical marijuana may mitigate the symptoms of a variety of illnesses.

HB 3664 would change the wording from "may mitigate" to "will mitigate" symptoms, mandating that doctors sign a "therapeutic value statement", though "Therapeutic Value" is not defined. Activists believe this requirement will serve to basically overturn the OMMA in a single sweep because it cannot be met.

It also requires that growers and caregivers must be 21 or older, though patients would of course be any age. Medicinal marijuana isn't alcohol, or recreational, and the suggestion that it be treated as such is bewildering to patients, who see it as a restriction molded to create criminals out of law-abiding citizens.

The new bill would also launch national background checks and a new grow site registration, both complete with additional fees, and would provide a list of registered grow sites to the Oregon State Police quarterly, without cause.

Opponents say that releasing private information violates the OMMA and puts patients at risk of home invasions and other harmful consequences.

Jose Garza, a Veteran and medical marijuana patient activist added that the extra expense would be debilitating to poor families. "It is very difficult to come up with the money for doctors visits, so even more restrictions is a real hardship on them."

"Cops want it almost impossible to get a card," Leland Berger said.

In earlier testimony, a police official said that "even a poor grower can easily get two pounds off of a single plant." Garza said that those production numbers are not at all realistic.

"We dream about that much medicine. They can get three pounds on a year-long grow, but not the way most of us grow here. We're really hoping for as much as a pound, from one plant."

Speaking on behalf of fellow Veterans, Garza plead with the committee, "Now I want to talk about PTSD. I'm begging you guys: at some point in time, can we please put PTSD on here?"

He told the committee about Rick Simpson healing hemp oil, and the benefits he receives with only one gram of oil a day. "Because of medical marijuana, I'm able to fit back into my community."

Medical marijuana has been approved in 16 states and Washington DC, and more are expected to join the grass roots medical movement in the next elections; Veteran's rights will also be of major concern, and will likely include an increased view of medical marijuana as a viable health option. Oregon will have to revisit PTSD as an accepted condition in the near future.

HB 3664 would also require minors who use medical marijuana to renew their cards every six months, along with a fee, instead of annually like the rest of the population. There are 50 or less minors currently registered with the OMMA and no known problem with minors entering the program. The additional financial requirement would be very burdensome on the patients' families and the need for such segregation was not demonstrated during the hearing.

Another note of consternation for patients is the possible change in legal protection for sick people traveling from other states, requiring patients "to be Oregon residents".

"All patients should have access to the same protections from criminal prosecution granted to Oregon residents under the OMMA. This law was intended to prevent those that use medical marijuana from being prosecuted under Oregon criminal laws," Alexander said.

Attorney Berger added, "This would effectively deny their right to travel2." Which is unconstitutional. "Kill this bill," he insisted.

An example almost too good to be true, Berger shared a milestone for cannabis with the committee.

"We won today, in the Oregon Supreme Court regarding Concealed handgun licenses," Berger said. It was a big win for patients. The Court ruled that a federal law barring criminals and drug addicts from buying firearms does not give sheriffs the right to refuse to issue concealed weapons permits to people who qualify, which includes medical marijuana patients.

Patients' rights were defended, and protected in Oregon's top court ...An occurrence likely to be repeated.

The last person to give testimony before the committee, Jennifer Alexander gave a PowerPoint presentation1 including reports of law enforcement abuse of patient data.

"The graphs demonstrate that the counties with the lowest patient populations have the highest police inquiries to the database."

Marion County has the highest data base, but one of the lowest patient populations. "ALL drug crimes are being searched on the medical marijuana database," Alexander said. "Not just marijuana cases, and it is not being handled properly even then."

"The data base should not be the first step. At the point they need to verify, that's when they should contact the database- not before." Privacy is a serious issue, not to be underrated. It is a right that Americans take to heart.

"Law enforcement remains the lone organized opposition to medical marijuana in Oregon, and has repeatedly abused and exploited their authority and access to confidential information for political purposes," Alexander said in a statement. "For that, we would like to see penalties imposed."

There was little to no feedback from committee members who showed limited interest in the speakers. The hearing began at 3:00 p.m., and promptly ended at 4:30 p.m., though the paper shuffling began minutes before, amid Ms. Alexander's presentation.

In closing, Rep Andy Olson said, "We are trying to be conscientious. I have personal history with success of medical marijuana. I saw with my own eyes how an MS patient friend of mine benefitted from using marijuana medicinally, so I do understand."

News Hawk- Jacob Ebel 420 MAGAZINE
Source: salem-news.com
Author: Bonnie King
Contact: Contact Us
Copyright: Salem-News.com
Website: Oregon Medical Marijuana Takes On Law Enforcement Before Legislators
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