Panel OKs Medical Marijuana Dispensaries

Statesman Journal | June 20, 2013 3:56 a.m. | Updated: June 20, 2013 10:56 a.m.

Contributed By:

Queenie Wong / Statesman Journal

When a neurologist recommended medical marijuana to aid with her husband’s brain injury, Denise Concannon had no idea where to turn.

Today, Concannon runs The Holistic Choice, a medical marijuna dispensary in Salem and she is among owners who want to be licensed by the state. It’s a move owners hope will guide them through a legal gray area and help patients find a safe place to purchase the medicine.

“It does feel very much like the Wild West of weed out there and it’s very scary,” she said.

House Bill 3460 would license and regulate medical marijuana facilities throughout the state. The Oregon Health Authority would set up a registration system, authorizing the transfer of the drug to patients. The facilities would also have to comply with regulations for pesticides, mold and mildew testing, which supporters say will help ensure the drug isn’t contaminated.

A joint budget committee moved the bill to the House floor Wednesday on a 19-7 vote.

Opposition came mostly from Republicans who raised concerns about whether the bill would conflict with federal law and if there would be enough law enforcement resources.

Supporters of the bill include medical marijuana dispensaries, the American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon, Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum and other advocacy groups.

The state allows patients with certain debilitating medical conditions to grow their own marijuana or designate someone else to do it.

But growing medical marijuana isn’t always an option for patients who suffer from disabilities because of the cost and the skill involved in the process, supporters argue.

Medical marijuana facilities would pay a registration fee of $4,000 each, according to the bill’s fiscal note. If an estimated 225 facilities register, the state would receive about $900,000 in the next two years. Revenue from the fees would help offset the cost of creating and running a new registration system.

Glenn Kristiansen, an owner of Oregon Chronic Solutions in Salem, said he’s seen medical marijuana patients who suffer from serious conditions such as cancer and multiple sclerosis who need another alternative other than growing the drug themselves or designating someone else to do it.

“I can recount hundreds of horror stories of people who have entrusted their card to people and have been ripped off and given no medicine or poor quality medicine,” he said. “There really is a dire need for ethical people to operate safe access points.”

Marijuana is still illegal under federal law, meaning it has no accepted medical use.

Last week, Nevada became the 14th state to legalize medical marijuana dispensaries, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

qwong@statesmanjournal.com or (503) 399-6694

For more state government coverage, go to StatesmanJournal.com/State

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