Medical Marijuana: Oregon Group on Track to Put Dispensary Measure on Ballot

If early signature-gathering results are any indication, Oregon residents will be voting in November on an initiative that would authorize the establishment of a medical marijuana dispensary system. At a Monday press conference, initiative organizers announced that they had handed in 61,000 signatures. A total of 82,000 valid signatures are necessarily to place the measure on the ballot, and organizers have until July to come up with the remaining signatures.

http://stopthedrugwar.org/files/medmj-bag.jpg
California medical marijuana bags (courtesy Daniel Argo via Wikimedia)
The initiative, I-28, is sponsored by Voter Power, the same organization responsible for getting the Oregon Medical Marijuana Act (OMMA) on the ballot in 1998. OMMA did not provide for dispensaries, leaving patients to either grow their own medicine or seek out someone to grow it for them.

Voter Power's initiative would create a system of state-regulated nonprofit dispensaries. The system would require no state government expenditures, relying instead on licensing fees to pay for itself. Dispensaries would distribute medical marijuana to qualified patients and would be allowed to recoup expenses and production costs. Individuals could also be licensed as growers to supply patients and dispensaries.

Five of the 13 states that have legalized medical marijuana have provisions for dispensaries. They range from the relatively loosely regulated system in California to the tightly controlled system in Rhode Island. The threat of federal prosecution acted as a retardant to dispensary expansion to medical marijuana states that do not have them, but since the Obama administration's policy shift away from prosecuting medical marijuana providers acting in compliance with state laws, that disincentive has largely vanished.

Oregon has more than 26,000 people registered as patients under the OMMA, with another 5,000 applications in the pipeline. It also has an estimated 15,000 medical marijuana grow operations.

Permission to Reprint: This article is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license.
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