Medical Pot Changes Debated
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Medical Pot Changes Debated
Posted by CN Staff on May 20, 2011 at 06:55:02 PT
By Saul Hubbard, The Register-Guard
Source: Register-Guard
Salem --  Medical marijuana advocates turned out in force at the Capitol on Thursday to take part in a sometimes-rowdy public hearing on a bill that would make a number of changes to Oregon’s medical marijuana laws.House Bill 3664 was drawn up in recent weeks by a group of bipartisan lawmakers — including three former law enforcement officers — after approximately 20 other bills aiming to restrict medical marijuana in Oregon in different ways failed to get anywhere this session.
Rep. Andy Olson, R-Albany, the bill’s chief sponsor, said HB 3664 represents an amalgamation of the earlier bills and has two primary purposes: protecting patients who genuinely need medical marijuana for physical ailments, while creating boundaries to prevent abuses of the program.“Do we have a problem with this issue? Indeed we do,” he testified.The multilayered bill would make several modifications, which include:Stiffening the requirements for when a doctor can recommend medical marijuana to a patient. Doctors would have to certify that medical marijuana will provide therapeutic value and mitigate medical symptoms for a patient, as opposed to current statutes that specify only that it might do so.Providing Oregon State Police with the addresses of every registered medical marijuana grow site in Oregon, on a rolling three-month basis, whether or not they are investigating a crime.Requiring medical marijuana users under the age of 18 to renew their card every six months by a doctor who specializes in treating children.Reducing the number of cardholders for whom a grower can legally provide marijuana from four to two.Restricting eligibility for the program to Oregon residents only.Requiring a nationwide criminal background check for cardholders, growers and caregivers. Currently, only statewide background checks are conducted when a medical marijuana card is issued.At Thursday’s public hearing, several Oregon police officers and district attorneys outlined some of the program abuses they have witnessed.Ray Myers, a detective with the Grants Pass Police Department, said the ability of criminals to hide behind Oregon’s medical marijuana laws is immense. Experienced growers can produce huge quantities of marijuana from the six mature plants they are allowed to possess, he said, and that marijuana often ends up being sold illegally.“It has never been as bad as it is right now,” he said.Brad Berry, the district attorney for Yamhill County, concurred. “We are dealing, in law enforcement, with the daily abuse of this law, (people) using it as a fence or wall to hide behind for the illegitimate growing, selling and distribution of marijuana throughout the state and the country.”Robert Wolfe of the Oregon Marijuana Policy Initiative, a coalition of pro-medical-marijuana interest groups, said proponents of the bill are losing sight of the real problem. “There are no legitimate studies, reports or surveys to back up these anecdotes of (medical marijuana) abuse,” he said. “I think what these officers are describing are problems with the black market ... and this bill doesn’t address the black market problem whatsoever.”Opponents also slammed the bill’s idea of providing information about the location of legal grow sites to law enforcement.Wolfe said police officers throughout the state already are wildly prejudiced against medical marijuana users, and HB 3664 would only encourage them to “go fishing.”He pointed to public records requests by his organization that revealed that law enforcement across the state made 51,811 inquiries into the cardholder database on evenings and weekends alone in one calendar year, from September 2009 to September 2010.Under current law, police officers can only access the database during active investigations and can only receive a “yes” or “no” answer as to whether a suspect is a cardholder. Wolfe said requests by his organization to see the numbers of those calls have been denied.Regardless, the number of inquiries for that calendar year clearly dwarfed the 32,929 cardholders in Oregon at the time, Today, the number of Oregonians using the program has grown to approximately 40,000. The number of Oregonians kicked out of the medical marijuana programs for abuses in 2010 was 60.Andrea Meyer of ACLU Oregon said she is concerned about the constraints that HB 3664 would place on doctors. “I don’t think (doctors) can ever say a medication will mitigate symptoms for a particular patient,” she said.Whether the bill will be approved by lawmakers this session remains unclear.Some legislators and advocates feel it is being rushed through toward the end of the session to avoid serious debate. Rep. Jeff Barker, D-Aloha, one of the bill’s sponsors, acknowledged that that isn’t a completely inaccurate point.“If I was an opponent of the bill, I would think that there hasn’t been enough discussion,” he said. “This is a big change, but I think we’re bringing it back to what the voters wanted.”While Olson has garnered bipartisan support in the House for the bill, he also characterized the changes it makes as “pretty minor,” something other legislators vehemently disagree with.Sen. Floyd Prozanski, D-­Eugene, said that while he supports some concepts in the bill — such as restricting eligibility to the medical marijuana program to Oregon residents, and including out-of-state crimes in the background check — he is very concerned about the sections that would constrain doctors and make more of cardholders’ and growers’ personal information available to law enforcement.“If it comes to the Senate as is, I will have a problem because it undercuts the will of the voters in our state,” he said. “There’s no evidence that Oregonians are clamoring for major changes to our medical marijuana laws, and that’s what this bill would do.”Source: Register-Guard, The (OR)Author:   Saul Hubbard, The Register-GuardPublished: May 20, 2011Copyright: 2011 The Register-GuardContact: rgletters guardnet.comWebsite: Medical Marijuana Archives
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Comment #2 posted by dongenero on May 20, 2011 at 09:27:13 PT
Paging Dr. Officer Olson
"Doctors would have to certify that medical marijuana will provide therapeutic value and mitigate medical symptoms for a patient, as opposed to current statutes that specify only that it might do so."Rep. Andy Olson, R-Albany, is ridiculous. Yes, if only everything in life were absolutely certain. The problem is that there is little in medical treatment that is of absolute certainty, or in life for that matter.One of the few absolute certainties I can think of, is that Rep Andy Olson will continue to promote silly, unreasonable legislative proposals as long as he is allowed.
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Comment #1 posted by runruff on May 20, 2011 at 09:03:56 PT
snakes in suits
Joel White has multiple sclerosis. 
The federal government wants to take away his medicine.Tell the Attorney General to stop attacking medical marijuana patients! 
 Dear jerry,Have you ever been in so much pain that you couldn't fall asleep? That's what Joel White's life was like every day for twenty years.Joel was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis 22 years ago. His doctors gave him a variety of medications with risky side-effects to help him cope, but a few years ago the medications stopped working and the intolerable pain returned.Exhausted, frustrated and unable to find relief, Joel finally decided to try marijuana. It worked. It eased the pain, and he could finally get some sleep.But now, the federal government is threatening to take away the medicine that Joel and others like him need.Ask U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to stop attacking medical marijuana patients like Joel.Two years ago, the Obama administration promised not to waste federal resources interfering with state medical marijuana laws. But in recent months they've broken that promise, raiding licensed medical marijuana dispensaries and sending threatening letters to state officials. This isn't just a war on drugs – it's a war on people. It's a war on patients like Joel, and on families forced to watch their loved ones suffer because the federal government won't let them use the medicine that works for them.Write the Attorney General and urge him to keep the administration's promise not to mess with state medical marijuana programs. This is a blatantly political act of intimidation designed to stop the growing legitimacy of medical marijuana – even if it means depriving people with cancer, multiple sclerosis and other debilitating conditions of the relief they need. Don't let anti-marijuana hysteria keep patients in pain. Write the Attorney General today!Sincerely,Ethan Nadelmann
Executive Director 
Drug Policy Alliance
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