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Feature: Battlelines Forming Over 2008 Oregon Medical Marijuana Ballot Issues

Oregon's Medical Marijuana Act (OMMA) will be ten years old next year, and with the nation's second largest number of registered patients -- some 16,000 of them -- it is certainly a success by some measures. But while the self-financing, state-regulated program rolls along, it looks as though it is going to be a hot issue in next year's elections.
Oregon petitioning (courtesy
On one hand, OMMA is under direct attack in a crime-fighting initiative filed by a powerful and well-connected Republican political figure who is a veteran and inveterate initiative campaigner. On the other hand, some of the same medical marijuana campaigners who organized the 1998 initiative victory that created OMMA have filed an initiative that would broaden the program by creating a state-regulated system of dispensaries. And that's got some patients and activists feeling caught between the frying pan and the fire.

It is very early in the game, with the filing of initiatives being only the first step in a long and sometimes Byzantine process, and it is not certain that either of these two initiatives -- or a number of others already filed -- will actually be going before the voters in November 2008. But the maneuvering has already begun.

Former Republican state legislator and 2002 gubernatorial nominee Kevin Mannix has made a political career as a moralizing, tough on crime politician. In 1994, he authored a successful initiative instituting mandatory minimum sentences for people convicted of violent crimes. Other accomplishments he touts are a crime victims' rights amendment to the state constitution and an anti-stalking law.

Mannix is not one to rest on his laurels, and this year, he has already filed a dozen or so initiatives on topics ranging from regulating strip clubs to more mandatory minimum sentences -- this time for drug dealers -- to allocating a share of lottery profits to "CSI: Oregon" to requiring the state police to hire more officers. But the initiative that has the medical marijuana community on edge, the Oregon Crime Fighting Act, is a direct attack on OMMA and the medical marijuana regulation system it created.

Along with provisions calling for mandatory minimum 25-year sentences for some repeat sex offenders and making repeated drunk driving arrests felonies, the proposed initiative would "replace the 'Medical Marijuana Act' with the following Marijuana Derivative and Synthetic Cannabinoid Prescription Program," a strange Mannix concoction that would have the state of Oregon provide synthetic THC in the form of Marinol to any patient who needed but could not afford it.

Mannix told the Chronicle Thursday he filed the OMMA repeal initiative because of abuses in the program. "Law enforcement reports to me that the whole system is very loosely drawn in this state, so that they are running up against cases where people are found with a variety of drugs, including cocaine and meth along with marijuana, and they present cards saying they are caretakers for 50 people," he said.

OMMA regulations allow for caregivers to grow for only four people.

Also, Mannix argued, since Oregon has decriminalized marijuana possession, there is really no need for a state medical marijuana law. "If someone wants to possess and smoke marijuana for whatever reason, they're not subject to a criminal charge," he said.

Oregon medical marijuana activists who spoke with the Chronicle view the Mannix initiative with real concern. "Mannix is a real problem," said Madeline Martinez, head of Oregon NORML. "He has opposed OMMA from the beginning. He's always been a moral crusader, and we're very concerned about him, we're frightened he's going to take our program away from us."

"Some in the community take it very seriously, some don't," said Anthony Johnson, political director for Voter Power, the group that mobilized support for the successful 1998 OMMA initiative. "We take it very seriously, because Mannix has the backing of a lot of powerful interests, and with enough money, you can get on the ballot, and then you can run ads to campaign against OMMA," he said.

"OMMA is popular in Oregon," Johnson complained. "He must think the only way he can win the repeal of OMMA is by tying it to other provisions that crime-weary voters will find attractive, like longer sentences for sex offenders."

"It should be the primary focus of activists in Oregon to try to defeat the Mannix initiative," said Leland Berger, activist attorney, Oregon election law expert, and legal advisor to Voter Power. "If it were to pass it would be very problematic."

Berger has been putting his lawyerly acumen to work in preliminary skirmishes designed to slow the Mannix initiative's progress. He filed a petition to challenge the initiative's ballot title, arguing that it only said "replace" OMMA when the initiative would effectively repeal it. There could be more legal challenges coming down the pike, as well, he said.

But while Berger said defeating the Mannix initiative should be the "primary focus" of activists, he and his colleagues at Voter Power have already filed several initiatives themselves, including an initiative that would create the Oregon Regulated Medical Marijuana Supply System, or a network of state-sanctioned dispensaries.

Under the proposed dispensary initiative, the state of Oregon would set up a system of licensed medical marijuana growers who could provide marijuana to nonprofit dispensaries and be reimbursed for their production costs. The dispensaries would in turn be able to dispense medical marijuana to registered patients and be reimbursed for their expenses. The proposal calls for the program to be self-funding, paying for itself with fee revenues -- 10% of earnings -- and for it to fund the distribution of medical marijuana to indigent patients and further research.

While there is general agreement that something needs to be done about supply issues, the deepening of OMMA through the creation of a dispensary system worries some patients and activists, in part for fear of sparking DEA raids like those plaguing California's booming dispensary scene, in part out of disdain for the flashy -- some say greedy -- entrepreneurial style sometimes evident in California. But that is not stopping Voter Power from moving forward.

"We feel this is necessary for two reasons," said Voter Power's Johnson. "First and foremost, to get medicine to the patients who need it. The current law is very unfair to many patients who can't grow their own and don't have connections to a garden. They have to rely on the charity of others or go to the black market," he said. "But we also think our initiative will protect OMMA because it will generate millions of dollars in revenues for the state budget. Voters and politicians like programs that can fund other programs or make tax increases unnecessary."

Johnson pointed to yet a third reason for pushing a dispensary initiative. "Other ideas that have been floated, like state gardens or donation clubs, are good ideas, but they require legislative action, and the legislature has proven unwilling to solve the supply crisis. We think it's up to voters, activists, and patients to do it -- that's why we're called Voter Power."

But some important Oregon activists disagree. "I believe going forward with a dispensary initiative could in fact harm patients," said Oregon NORML's Martinez. "If we have a dispensary model like the California model, that will give ammunition to Mannix. We're very concerned about him. In fact, we're telling our members don't sign any petitions that mention medical marijuana. This cycle we don't want to do anything, and we don't want to sign anything," she said. "A dispensary initiative will distract us from fighting Mannix, and I think our priority has to be protecting the 16,000 patients who are now benefiting from the law."

That position brought a quick retort from Berger. "I find it very strange that the Oregon chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws is against reforming the marijuana laws," he said.

A lot of patient concern about a dispensary initiative has to do with "those terrible headlines from California" about dispensaries being raided, said Martinez. "We see things differently up here," she said. "We don't want corner dispensaries, and we are scared of being raided. That hasn't happened yet here, but when you start mixing this stuff up, then you have the DEA coming in, and we're very afraid that will happen with this initiative," she said.

Martinez also pointedly recalled that Voter Power had tried a similar initiative in 2004 that had received only 43% of the vote. "When this was tried before, the voters said no," she said. "Why do they think it can win this time? It hasn't even been polled," she said.

"The current initiative is much more tightly drawn than in 2004," responded Johnson. "That initiative was quite radical and expansive, like a wish list for activists, while this one is limited to trying to establish licensed and regulated dispensaries."

Johnson also disputed the idea the initiative would create a "California model." "There is no statewide regulation of dispensaries in California," he said. "Our statewide regulation adds legitimacy, as well as tighter structure and much greater control of what's going on."

As for potential DEA raids, Johnson pointed out that the initiative sets cultivation and possession limits under the levels that trigger federal mandatory minimum sentences, perhaps providing a disincentive for federal prosecutors to send in the SWAT teams.

Battle lines are being drawn in the Oregon medical marijuana community. While it is united its opposition to the Mannix initiative, there are deep strategic and philosophical divisions over how to move forward. While those are to be expected, the atmosphere can sometimes grow nasty, and that does the movement little good.

"Even though there is widespread agreement that the current system of supply is inadequate, there is disagreement among advocates in Oregon about whether to go forward with licensed and regulated dispensary proposals," Berger said. "Some of that is based on real concerns about dispensaries, but some of it has descended to personal attacks on the motivations of proponents, and that's really disappointing. Nobody circles the wagons and opens fire inward better than our movement," he said. "We need to support each other more; there are just too few of us."

Neither the Mannix initiative nor the dispensary initiative are done deals, and Berger said that the latter must do well in polling if it is to move forward. In any case, it looks as if the voters of Oregon will once again be deciding the fate of medical marijuana in the Beaver State.

Permission to Reprint: This article is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license.
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Join Voter Power in this Battle at

In 2008, Oregon voters may have a very unique opportunity. The voters may be given a chance to go back in time and treat sick and disabled patients as criminals and spending millions of taxpayers' dollars arresting, prosecuting, and jailing patients, caregivers, and growers by repealing the Oregon Medical Marijuana Act (OMMA). Or the voters can move forward and live in a state that decides to not only protect patients, but to also provide them with safe access to a medicine that has been proven to greatly improve the lives of many patients while being literally a life-saving medicine for many others. Oregon voters can even keep the status quo, where patients are protected, but too many go without medicine. We can keep the status quo that is unfair to patients who don't have the ability or resources to have their own garden or the networking connections to find someone to grow for them. The status quo where many patients who live on a fixed income or in Section 8 housing are forced to navigate the black market or rely upon the charity of others, when relying on such charity oftentimes even comes with much difficult, such as traveling four or five hours to Portland and then possibly waiting in line, battling the elements, for a couple of more hours. Just to get a little medicine that should be widely available at their local pharmacy.

Oregon voters may have the chance to move forward and show the nation that licensed and regulated transactions of cannabis are not evil. These regulated transactions can help ensure that patients have access to pharmacy-like facilities operated by nonprofit organizations that provide the patients not only medicine, but also a comfortable place to network and socialize with other patients. Oregon can show the country that revenue generated from these transactions can help ensure that all patients can have safe access to medical cannabis and that such revenue can also help provide poverty-stricken children with health insurance and increase social services for the most disadvantaged in our society.

Those that believe that regulated commerce in marijuana is not evil should support Voter Power's 2008 initiative efforts. We can stop the repeal of OMMA while also approving a law that ensures that all patients have safe access to medical cannabis and generates millions of dollars that will protect OMMA and help our citizens who are battling disability, sickness, and poverty. Of course, no one wants to see anyone raided, arrested, prosecuted, and jailed for providing medicine to patients. It is reasonable to fear such interference from the federal government. However, we shouldn't let such fears control our lives and our actions. Especially when so many patients are suffering. We can give into fear or we can fight for our hopes and dreams. Voter Power hopes and dreams of a day where patients are protected, where patients have safe access to medical cannabis and where cannabis commerce can help improve our society. If you share these hopes in dreams, please join Voter Power in this battle. Please visit and join us by volunteering or sending a contribution.

Anthony Johnson
Voter Power Political Director


Great aticle ,it is always good to see the medical usage of
safe drugs with out stereo typical predujuses. As you have probably
realised I am posting about above listed article. My recomendation
at this point though is that in safety of usage perhaps , oral as opposed to smoking ,would be a safer way to take this drug. One
of the major problems we have on southern Vancouver Island, with
regards to the illegal street sale of Marijuana ,is dealers adding other more adictive drugs such as Crystal-Meth. The other being
inexperienced growers usage of toxic chemical fertilizers. I have reason to believe Marijuana is higher in both Nicotine and tar, then
Tabacco products, possibly given usage amounts comparible to,
cigarettes as adictive. I feel Governments ,have used Tabacco
products for a scape goat for a lot of much more dangerous, chemical exposieurs. Carpets, drywall, fiberglass ,bondo,air born,
paints , arcaic neuclear facilities, and wastages,and exposed electrical transmition lines may be much more to blaim for related deseases. ~~~~ Lawrence J. Lapadat Sun Sep 16 5;12 PM PST


There is not one molecule of nicotine in untampered with pot. zero. also, if you are concerned about cancerous chems in pot use a volcano style pipe system and grow your own herb to avoid crap from poor growers.

As a construction worker I have fibers from fiberglass and concrete and asbestos etc in me. And that filth was all legal. Why hurt me by sending me to jail for growing pot when I am now permanently injured from being rear ended in a car accident? whose ego is so valuable as to need to stand my shoulders? scum like this maniac Mannix? get back in your box Manixx!! go lay down!

Zero deaths from pot. ever. release the BC3 NOW!

If you fear federal

If you fear federal interference with the dispensaries, have them run by the police. LEOs are exempt from the DEA registration requirement. Also make sure the pot is grown on gov't land so it can't be seized by the feds.

peace brothers and sisters

I've been smoking this medicine for almost 40 years now and only when I see people stop fearing unfair laws do I get the courage to speak my mind.
All pot smokers want is to relax and feel good,
so why 'go along with the perfectionists' who would if they could turn us all into straight pumkins. Then we would have a perfect world? Just look at what we have now.
Just wanting to be left alone and create their futuristic dreams,
this miraculous herb has been the answer for me on so many levels, I only hope real peace lovers would see the light
and potentials that can be realized. Real insight takes a special caring we all need to evolve in a forward manner.
It just feels right, and the furure can be we reach the stars.
Rid ourselves of hate, fear, anger, and love love for real. ok.

simple economics

It takes not much of a genius to estimate what the huge pharmacies and money hungry petro-chemical industries would lose if pot were legal. Not to mention alcohol dispensories. Oh poor Tylenol, you just might lose a few percentage points.
I'm so bored of all the newly advertised cure-all drugs that we are expected to 'talk to our doctors about'. Money seems so important and it is however how much is enough?
Have we lost our minds entirely and would like to just say
'baah baah' like a sheep? Sheeps get sheared in the end just like turkeys.get roasted.
Leave pot smokers alone dammit.
They don't hurt anyone except for their pocket-books,
If it were legal the police could concentrate on the real bad guys that deal out pain. And the weedsters could evolve.

deep breathing ability thanks to the herb

just take a deep breath and hold it in a few more seconds.
now let it out. feel better? Of course we do but we get so caught up in reality of our nervous system to take in all the junk advertising in the media.
We will prevail, the pot smokers, so get used to it.
If you don't smoke, fine.
Just please for sake of humanity lets stop causing the truly enlightened to hide in their closets anymore.
Stop being so righteous and simply leave them alone.
They are in heaven on earth. Do you want to push a type of hell their way? Why do that? Then be free and know that just because you don't indulge in a safe way to be happy like some, don't simply agree with the Jones' that it must be evil
to smoke some tasty dank. Its not. Ask Robert Mitchem
or Louis Armstrong, or the millions of smokers 4:20 4ever

marijuana use

whatever you think of marijuana use, whether you think it's bad or good, whatever happened to free will? And who is to say what i can or can't put into my body. whatever happened to the constitutation, that says we have the right to the pursuit of happiness. Just one of the many rights that have been taken from us. Come on folks---live and let live. don't pass your morality on to me.

I agree

The above genius is exactly right,
freedom of speach must melt with freedom of thought.
No one is controlling my mind, Don't allow anything to do that.
. Millions, that's right, MILLIONS of people and growing every year (no pun intended) have ejoyed the herb.
You may soon see many more 'patients to be' among the 25,000 (some faking backaches) just to get at medical marijuana. Of course there are a few ones with minimal pain or irritation. No one can judge your back pain but you.
Now doctor, I must say my chronic (key word by law) backaches are at level 4.788 or whatever and they come and go quite often. right? (sure). (Try to prove it different mr. DEA man. or Sir doctor.) Get a pain contact that mentions chronic pain and you're in. Medical mariuana card on your way sir.
Were destined to buy stock in back braces you'll see.
I can see mine from here. Call those numbers for pot if have a 'back' problem and you will be glad you did. I can tell you when you legally grow and smoke per law you get many more times the enjoyment. abiding citizen. CALL NOW.....

speak up

hey tokers, speak up if you see this. Its anonymous
and it will make you feel that you can make a difference if you put your mind to it.
I'm a recent card-getter so find it easier to spread the word
that I was cowardly reluctant to do.
I guess the almighty LAW can make us do that and that's the intention however remember the famous quote that we are obligated to disobey UNJUST LAWS. Was that Ghandi? or Jefferson,
oh well it was somebody. Back to my medicine.
I gotta get some nice dreamy sleep time.

On The Backs of Patients defines a patient;
1.a person who is under medical care or treatment.

Why are some attempting to create a medical marijuana "industry"?
Chronically ill patients are almost always unable to afford dispensary prices. For many, their condition has cost them the ability to be employed. The dispensary initiative calls for "charity" for the poor. Hmmm. Isn't the unavailability of medicine and the dependence on the charity of others the reason they wanted dispensaries? Makes no sense to me.Those who have will now have choice. Those in need will remain in need.
Believing they have constructed a program that protects individuals from federal mandatory minimum sentence laws is misleading. Not all marijuana convictions require jail time under federal sentencing guidelines, but all are eligible for imprisonment. I take no comfort in the dispensary strategy.
No sense in accusing anyone of greed or exploitation as that is not the point. I have seen these activists toil for years fighting for mj and they are poorer than the average working citizen. They don't do it for the money. They do it for love of the plant. Now, all they have to do is remember love for fellow man. In this case, the patient.
Oregon dispensary proponents have no money for polling and no financial backing from the national mj orgs. They have no funds for badly needed professional signature gatherers and instead are asking patients to stand in the streets to get the numbers they need. It ain't gonna work!
Mannix is trying to snatch our program away from us in Oregon. Let's join in action to stop him!

some more thought

If any a great man speaketh his mind in truth too loudly,
he is usually killed by a bullet, just as Mr King, kennedys,
etc. just so that the establishment can keep their reins
tight and keep control and keep making money much of the time at the expense of the middle class which is becoming combined with thr lesser well off class.
They include imcumbents
and leaders that truly believe the poor are a lower level of order
That sounds somewhat like the Nazis.
Throughout history persons in a power position have
kept that power through the use of violence, oppression,
and downright murder. Their conciousness must be in turmoil.
And anyone who tries to get in their way and make changes
too quickly are put down by any means, especially the
use of their powerful armies and basically croonies.
Then we have a dilema. The good people end up sometimes
laying down their very lives for their beliefs. With the Information Age upon us, the internet may be the saving grace for our future. Put the debates on live tv or live internet
so that we can pull the crooks intentions out in the open.
If there is nothing to hide, then why not? Go Obama.
Oh yea, leave the pot smokers alone.

dispensories NOT

in California, some dispensories charge 40 or more dollars an eighth for MM. Thats just like buying off the streets for the same price.
Someone's making too much profit.
Its ashame. If it happens in Oregon, screw it I'm growing my own. Oh yea I got my med pot card so can grow legally.
Californians should start thinking like V for vendetta
Is it not a crime to charge the poor 40 dollars an 8th?
How could that not be. What arguement could there be for such an outrage. Are we stupid? I have MS.
I just got a MM card and am living (so far) proof its good for some. I was getting sick to my stomach and probably other organs, so tried some good tasting M. After a minor period of adjustment my aches and pains and seizures went away.
I was contemplating the cowardly way out till then.
Not worrying about the law and smoking 1or 2 joints a day
I feel NORML now and have a life. I thank all who volunteered to make this a reallity fo me. I'm so happy now. thank you.
Try please try all to see what a current waste it is to keep this miracle medicine from the public choice. The world needs some serious change, so don't be afraid of your God given freedom. Vote for your civil rights. Evil Warlords hide in secrecy and cowardice rationalizing their actions.
They would have us fearful and compliant to line their wallets and egos.We see evidence all the time but are blind, afraid.
Don't allow others to dictate how you think and behave.
Violence is all we have to prevent. WAR is so stupid but we vote for it every few decades. The WAR machine is the only thing we need to keep at bay. National security is one thing but have we forgotten the beauty and real value of TRUTH.
Truth endures eternal. What else can do that?
It's true that I have life now compared to before M
please let this be but one tesimonial. Many of my friends
are of the same mind.
I'm 96 years old now and feel 40.(sometimes) Please share this. We can tear down whatevers blockading this mircale
medicinal herb reaching all who want it. Imagine the resouces we could have if we freed all the pot offenders in jail.
Im talking just pot.
PLEASE tolerate me and it. God bless.
Im at peace if only we stopped hurting each other.
Be nice, not too greedy.

The first federal census of

The first federal census of my family's home state, Iowa, occured in 1920. Listed in it was my grandma Mildred Violet Manke as married, able to read and a citizen of Webster County. In 1964 she took me, her favorite grandson, to her front yard and taught me some serious herbology. In her youth the doctors would kill you from incredible ignorence about what infection was and on and on. They are very dangerous to this day, having murdered my 11 year old daughter by forceable drug overdose here in Iowa, see Manke v Iowa.

She taught me about thistles and dandylion and the plant against the side of her house? that was for female pains, backaches, and the pukes. It was pot.

It is entirely artificial to call me a criminal because I grow and smoke pot here in Iowa. I am not wanting to hurt anyone. but the cops want to hurt me. they want to violently enter my home and drag me out in manicles and jail me because they hate me for exercising my God given rights to not puke after being rear ended in a trafic accident. They are sinners and they live for hate when they do this evil. Police! if I have the guts to tell you my name will you then have the guts to not destroy on people like me who don't want any harm to others? or are you safe behind your blue guns and badges? let's see who has more courage of his convictions then, eh? I am Robert Manke and I smoke pot and I grow pot and you don't have to agree with me one bit, but be assured you are a disloyal American if you hunt me over my pot. God is very real and watching you use your power. I am not afraid. I will not hide.

Over grow America and release the BC3 NOW!

Kevin Mannix is an idiot.

The only reason Kulongoski is Governor is because Mannix is so hated he unified the state against himself.

None of his initiatives ever succeed. Since he passed measure 11 our legal system has been royalled screwed so any credibility given to this joke of a politician doesn't translate to votes in oregon.

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