|Graphic: Mercy Center|
Medical marijuana advocates on Thursday submitted 110,000 signatures, more than the amount required, for a ballot initiative allowing state-licensed cannabis dispensaries in Oregon.
The proposed measure, Initiative 28, would not change the qualifying medical conditions under which medicinal marijuana may be legally used, report Stacey Barchenger and Peter Wong of the Statesman Journal.
Backers of the initiative say it would fix serious flaws in Oregon’s 12-year-old medical marijuana program.
Oregon residents with doctor-approved medical marijuana cards can legally possess and use marijuana, but they cannot legally buy it. They must either grow their own or designate a grower/caregiver, who still cannot be paid for the cannabis, reports Peter Korn at The Portland Tribune.
|Mike Meno, MPP: “We support dispensary programs”|
As of April 2010, Oregon has nearly 33,000 registered medical marijuana users, reports Chris McKee at KMTR.
If the dispensary measure became law, Oregon would join California, New Mexico, Maine and Colorado in allowing medical marijuana shops.
“We support dispensary programs,” said Mike Meno of the Marijuana Policy Project, which lobbies at the state and federal levels for marijuana to be taxed and regulated like alcohol. “For many patients, they are the best way to get safe access to their medicine.”
”Especially in states where we’re pushing for new medical marijuana laws, they get a bad rap from stories they hear out of California; that there’s more dispensaries there than Starbucks,” Meno said.
According to Meno, a state-regulated program could avoid a proliferation of pot dispensaries.
Initiatives need 82,769 valid signatures to qualify for the ballot in Oregon. A percentage of signatures is normally invalidated, which is why petitioners turn in more than are needed. Supporters say they will continue to gather signatures through June.
Supporters of the dispensary initiative say a poll they commissioned last year showed that almost 60 percent of Oregon voters support the measure.
Oregon’s medical marijuana law, approved by voters in 1998, allows patients with state-issued cards — or their caregivers — to grow a specified number of pot plants. The current limit on mature plants is six.
The law did not specifically allow marijuana sales, which conflict with federal law.
“But now that the Obama Administration has indicated that they will allow states to regulate medical marijuana, Oregon needs to create a regulated system so every patient can access quality controlled medicine,” said John Sajo, director of Voter Power, the group that organized the petition signature campaign.
Madeline Martinez, executive director of Oregon NORML, said that as a patient she worries the state may try to prohibit her from organically growing the plants. But the state chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws is officially neutral on the issue.
“We don’t feel that (it) really makes a significant change in the lives of patients — it doesn’t go far enough,” Martinez said. “It doesn’t protect our employment rights or from losing our children in custody battles.”