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Oregon: “Anybody Can Get a Medical Marijuana Permit”

Russ Belville

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One of the more frustrating things about listening to elected officials debate marijuana legalization, aside from their lack of current experience using marijuana, is their consistent mischaracterization of Oregon’s Medical Marijuana Program, or OMMP.

In his debate vs. Rep. Earl Blumenauer at the Salem City Club Friday, Clatsop County District Attorney Josh Marquis, the leading spokesman against our Measure 91 marijuana legalization initiative, tried to minimize the need for the measure by citing erroneous suppositions about medical marijuana.

The Oregonian reported  Marquis’ assertion that “almost any adult can get a medical marijuana permit and legally possess up to a pound and a half of the drug.” Marquis sarcastically added, “God forbid they get down to just a pound of marijuana, which could probably keep someone zorked out all year,” clearly not understanding that the sickest patients need greater amounts since they are compounding that raw cannabis into edible or vaporizable forms.

Oregon, as do all other medical marijuana states, suffers from California Quasi-Legalization Perception. The medical marijuana law there  includes the right for doctors to recommend medical marijuana for “any other illness for which marijuana provides relief.” There is also no statewide medical marijuana card or registry system. This has led to the infamous Venice Beach bikini sign-twirlers advertising marijuana recommendations for $40, which can be obtained by fabricating any ailment, leading to immediate admittance to hundreds of pot shops. Indeed, medical marijuana in California is really a hodge-podge of quasi-marijuana-legality with a doctor’s permission slip.

But that’s not the case in Oregon, or, for that matter, any of the other 22 medical marijuana states. Washington is the only other medical marijuana state with no card and registry system, further compounding the perception that all West Coast medical marijuana states are similarly lax in their standards.

In Oregon, “any other condition” will not qualify for a medical marijuana recommendation, period. Not only must a patient exhibit cancer, HIV/AIDS, glaucoma, cachexia, spasms, seizures, chronic pain, nausea, or PTSD to qualify, but there must also be notes detailing that condition in medical records from three separate doctor visits within the past three years before a medical marijuana clinic will approve a recommendation. Visits to these doctors can reach up to $1,000 in expense before the patient can then fill out paperwork and pay more fees to the state for a medical marijuana registry card. Then, and only then, can that patient gain admittance to a state-licensed medical marijuana dispensary, yet another significant difference from California and Washington, which do not license, inspect, or regulate dispensaries.

Many people who would easily qualify for a medical marijuana card do not get one because of the time, hassle, expense, and lack of privacy involved in registering with the state.  Under Measure 91, those people won’t have to jump through all those hoops and sacrifice their privacy in order to acquire marijuana for their treatment; so long as they are 21 years of age, they will be able to shop for marijuana in a secure, adults-only store with healthy adults.  It is disheartening to hear the Clatsop County District Attorney exhibit such a lack of concern for the sickest, most vulnerable Oregonians.

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