OR Medical Marijuana Patients Protest Proposed Restrictions


Photo: Kobbi R. Blair/Statesman Journal
About 60 medical marijuana advocates gathered Wednesday at the Oregon Capitol to demonstrate against proposed legislation that would tighten restrictions on the state’s medical marijuana program.

​Medical marijuana activists demonstrated at the Oregon Capitol on Wednesday, protesting proposed legislation that would put new restrictions on medicinal cannabis in the state.

A rally on the Capitol steps drew about 60 protestors, some holding signs reading “Cannabis Is My Friend” and “Don’t Tread On Medicine,” reports Alan Gustafson at the Statesman Journal
Demonstrators registered their opposition to a flurry of new bills introduced in the 2011 legislative session seeking to narrow participation or enact other changes in the state’s medical marijuana program, established after voters approved the legalization of medicinal cannabis in 1998.

Legislators were apparently emboldened by the rejection by voters last November of a statewide ballot measure which would have created a network of state-licensed dispensaries to sell marijuana to patients authorized to use it legally.

Photo: KEZI

​Bills pending in the Legislature propose wide-ranging restrictions, including reducing the amount of marijuana a cardholder can possess to one ounce, down from the current 24 ounces (House Bill 3093) and expanding the ability of employers to ban medical marijuana use in the workplace (Senate Bill 646).
Law enforcement officers and some legislators claim reforms are needed to “rein in” the medical marijuana program, which has grown beyond original projections, and to prevent abuses of it.
HB 2982 was a major focus of Wednesday’s protests. It received heavy criticism from medical marijuana patients and advocates at the late-morning rally and during an afternoon hearing before the House Judiciary Committee.
The bill would prevent any Oregonian with a felony drug conviction from possessing a medical marijuana card. It would also require criminal background checks on all existing medical marijuana cardholders, of which there are now more than 58,000, according to the state.
Critics of the bill said it would impose unfair extra punishment on convicted felons and cost the state millions of dollars to conduct background checks.
And if you’re wondering why having a felony drug conviction should mean you receive different, less effective medical treatment, you’re not the only one.
“HB 2982 is designed to punish for a second time people who have already paid their debt to society and who are now sick, disabled and even dying,” said Robert Wolfe, director of the Oregon Marijuana Policy initiative, a coalition of medical marijuana advocacy groups.
“It is an expensive, pointless exercise that provides no benefit to the citizens of Oregon, and that creates an unfunded mandate in a time of restricted budgets,” Wolfe said. “It would take enormous manpower,” he said, reports Tom Adams at KVAL News.
“It makes more sense to work with the community and craft reasonable regulations than to force people into the black market,” Wolfe said.
Medical marijuana cardholer Michael Segal, 55, of Portland, agreed. He relies on medicinal cannabis to ease chronic pain, and said the proposed bill would punish him again for a 1990 marijuana-growing conviction.
“I paid my debt for breaking society’s laws by serving a 73-month sentence,” he said. “It is just wrong that we should even have to be here today discussing this. If I had committed an assault and battery, armed robbery, or other crime of violence which resulted in the same sentence, I would not be affected by this bill.”
The bill would “set a horrible precedent,” according to Segal, and prevent patients in need from legally getting medical marijuana.
“If you make it illegal for me to get it, I will get it illegally,” he said.
“They’re not doctors; they don’t have the right to say what medicine I can have and what medicine I cannot have,” said Pamela Underwood, who opposes HB 2982, reported Heather Turner at KEZI.
The fate of all the bills is uncertain during a legislative session challenged by fiscal problems, including a projected $3.5 billion shortfall in the two-year budget cycle that begins July 1.