Advocates, Opponents Butt Heads Over Pot Measure
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Advocates, Opponents Butt Heads Over Pot Measure
Posted by CN Staff on October 08, 2010 at 06:06:03 PT
By Chris Conrad
Source: Mail Tribune
Ashland, Oregon -- A packed room in Southern Oregon University's Stevenson Union was treated to a lively back-and-forth Thursday between Measure 74 proponents and law enforcement during a forum on November's medical marijuana ballot measures in Oregon and California.The forum was sponsored by the Mail Tribune and Jefferson Public Radio and moderated by the Jefferson Exchange's Geoffrey Riley and Mail Tribune editor Bob Hunter and reporter Damian Mann.
"Judging by the turnout this is an issue of interest," Riley said as he surveyed the nearly full house prior to directing questions to the panelists.The panelists included Sgt. Erik Fisher of the Oregon State Police Drug Enforcement Program; Portland attorney Leland Berger, who assisted in writing the Oregon Medical Marijuana Act; Deputy Chief Tim George of the Medford Police Department; and Leslie Wilde, who runs the Green Collar Compassionate Collective dispensary in Dunsmuir, Calif.George led off by describing how busy local cops are with marijuana cases during harvest season. George noted that he was not speaking for the Medford Police Department but as a private citizen and his opinions did not represent the department's."Marijuana laws are consuming police right now," George said.George and Fisher said they have no issue with those who follow the laws related to production and consumption of medical marijuana, but those who are using the program to funnel marijuana into the black market take up a lot of police time.Berger countered with a pointed rebuke, saying, "I thought we would start a little more truthful here."He went on to argue that the problem was not with medical marijuana-related gardens but the illegal large-scale farms containing thousands of plants on public forest land.Berger acknowledged that some in the program have benefited illegally from selling marijuana meant for card-holding patients. He claims Measure 74 would cut into illegal profits by providing an increased incentive for caregivers to grow for regulated dispensaries that will dole out marijuana to cardholders."Measure 74 will make a regulated supply system so people won't have to go on the black market to buy medicine," Berger said. "It's a surprise that law enforcement does not support this as it takes a bite out of crime."Wilde said California's dispensary system will differ from Oregon's should Measure 74 pass."In California, every dispensary regulates itself and runs the way it wants to," she said.Wilde has some reservations about Measure 74, saying it might have too much regulation embedded in its language. If a dispensary makes a mistake and has one or two plants over the limit, it could cause problems."The restrictions might bring in the police because they have a set amount of plants to look for when they enter a garden or dispensary," Wilde said. "It gives the police a foot in the door and could keep patients from getting medicine if there's a delay."Wilde hopes the restrictions loosen up over time and the dispensaries are left to police themselves.Fisher said the increase in the number of people added to the medical marijuana program through Measure 74 will make it harder to enforce all marijuana laws. Under the proposed measure, cards will be given to those who work in the dispensary."It doesn't give us any additional tools to work with," Fisher said. "For instance, it won't help us to know who owns a grow site. It will muddy the waters even more."Fisher said police do not receive lists of legal gardens and only can learn the status of a garden by contacting officials with the Oregon Medical Marijuana Program and giving them the name of a person suspected of growing illegally."They then give us a simple yes or no if the garden is legal," Fisher said.When asked why the OMMP has grown so rapidly, Berger said proponents have done a good job of educating the public of the benefits of medical marijuana.The positive economic impact of taxing medical marijuana remains up in the air, Berger said."The voter's pamphlet said the economic forecast is between three and 20 million in revenue," Berger said. "It's hard to guess what it will be."When asked about compensation for providers and dispensaries, Berger said that making money should not be the goal of participating in the program."It's about giving safe access to medicine for patients and not making millionaires," Berger said.Fisher believes that it is difficult for Measure 74 proponents and law enforcement to see eye-to-eye on the issue because they are coming from very different points of view. Police only deal with those who take advantage of the program for personal gain, but that might only represent a small proportion of those who participate in the OMMP.The panel seemed to agree with his point.Source: Mail Tribune, The (Medford, OR)Author: Chris ConradPublished: October 8, 2010Copyright: 2010 The Mail TribuneContact: letters mailtribune.comWebsite: Medical Marijuana Archives 
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Comment #1 posted by runruff on October 10, 2010 at 12:21:36 PT
Advocates, Opponents Butt Heads Over Pot Measure!
It should read;Advocates Opponents, Butt Heads Over Pot Measure!
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