Oregon: Medical Marijuana Program Numbers Decrease, Patient and Grower Restrictions Increase
Since recreational cannabis sales became legal, the number of people with medical cards dropped from 77,000 to 67,000, according to state officials
By Michael Bachara
Thousands of patients are letting their official Oregon Medical Marijuana Program (OMMP) card lapse due to the financial cost to obtain the card. The annual fee is not worth the savings to obtain the medical card, according to several patients.
The Oregon Legislature recently passed SB 1057, which will subject medical growers to expensive seed to sale tracking. It does not allow the growers sell into the legal market.
Anthony Taylor, the Executive Director of Compassionate Oregon, believes if SB 1057 goes unchanged Oregon medical marijuana patients that grow for themselves at an address that is not where they live will have to pay $1,230 a year for their cards.
According to Taylor, "If SB 1057 goes unchanged, Oregon medical marijuana growers will have to begin tracking their cannabis cultivation activities, adding an additional $480/yr. to use the METRC system." he said. "In addition to that, all growers will have to pay a tracking program administrative cost fee which will add another $200/yr."
Compassionate Oregon is working on HB 2198 that will create an Oregon Cannabis Commission to manage the OMMP and allow access to the adult use market for OMMP growers.
Longtime medical marijuana growers are facing increasing regulations too. They are now forced to comply with increased licensing fees, expensive security cameras, and burdensome seed-to-sale tracking systems.
John Sajo, the Director Umpqua Cannabis Association said in a statement, "I have been an activist for legalizing marijuana since the 1970s and have been growing medical marijuana and providing it free to patients for over twenty years. I have given over a million dollars worth of medicine to hundreds of patients for free over those years. But proving that no good deed goes unpunished, I am now looking at the very real possibility that I may not be able to continue."
Paul Stanford runs a medical clinic in Portland that works with doctors that specialize in helping patients obtain their state medical marijuana permit. He has helped tens of thousands of Oregonians, and over 250,000 Americans from Michigan to Hawaii, obtain their medical marijuana card. Stanford believes only social adult cannabis use should be taxed; hemp for medicine, fuel, fiber and food needs to be freed from burdensome over-regulation.
“The people who lead the way and made cannabis legal, as it is today, are actually being thrown under the bus,” Stanford said. “Patients who need medical marijuana should come first, not last."
"Cannabis is the safest and most useful herbal medicine on the planet," Stanford continued. "This isn't alcohol. This isn't opiates. This is something that is not physically addictive and actually has numerous health benefits. It shouldn't be treated as something that's evil and needs over-regulation."
“The new rules are to ensure that certain safeguards are in place to protect public safety,” according to Mark Pettinger of the Oregon Liquor Control Commission (OLCC). “That means preventing access by children. It means ensuring that marijuana isn’t diverted from legal intent into the illegal market. It means trying to keep marijuana … out of the hands of the cartels and organized crime.”
“Up until now the medical marijuana system has been less tightly regulated, and it’s been a source for diverting product to the illegal market,” Pettinger said in a statement.
Rob Patridge, the former Chair of the OLCC and individual responsible for implementing the state's seed to sale tracking system, said, "Basically you’re going to have a series of cities and counties across the state who’ve opted out from recreational sale, so you’re going to have some of those medical-only sales dispensaries.”
In the end, patients will not be able to find growers as more and more growers with multiple patients will opt for 12 plants or less to avoid reporting. If every OMMP grower that grows for patients drops to 12 plants to avoid tracking over 12,000 patients would lose their grower.
In Oregon, more than 80 percent of the 300-plus licensed dispensaries have applied to sell recreational cannabis.
Hemp News reached out to Governor Kate Brown's Office for her decision on SB 1057, but did not receive an official response.
Graphic: OPB News