Three lawmakers who are former Oregon state troopers are scrambling to keep alive a bill that would cut the amount of medical marijuana patients and growers can have on hand, give police greater access to confidential lists of cardholders, and make it harder for minors to use the drug.
GRANTS PASS — Three lawmakers who are former Oregon state troopers are scrambling to keep alive a bill that would cut the amount of medical marijuana patients and growers can have on hand, give police greater access to confidential lists of cardholders, and make it harder for minors to use the drug.
A bill will go to the House Rules Committee after it became clear another would fail to get through the normal committee process on the Senate side before this Thursday's deadline, Thomas Cuomo, chief of staff to Rep. Andy Olson, R-Albany, said Monday.
The Rules Committee is a refuge for bills that are slow in getting traction. It has later deadlines for sending bills to the floor. Olson is co-chairman.
Arguing that patients, growers and caregivers are abusing the medical marijuana law approved by voters in 1998, Olson and two other former state police in the Legislature have been working on a series of reforms. The others are Rep. Wayne Krieger, R-Gold Beach, and Rep. Jeff Barker, D-Aloha.
"I want to go back to the intent of what voters wanted to do in 1998 and move that forward," said Olson, a retired state police lieutenant who ran narcotics investigations. "Right now, I believe it is out of control."
Marijuana advocates said they would go to the mat to defend the amount of marijuana patients and growers can have on hand and keep police from going on fishing expeditions in confidential lists of patients, growers or caregivers. And they see no reason to make it harder for minors to get medicine that adults can have.
"The marijuana genie is out of the bottle," said Bob Wolfe of the Oregon Marijuana Policy Initiative. "We have got to stop trying to build a stronger bottle. It will not work. There is no political will, no social mandate, and no budget to wipe out medical marijuana in Oregon."
More than 38,000 Oregonians hold medical marijuana patient cards, 1 percent of the population. They have to grow their own or get it from an authorized grower, who cannot charge beyond expenses. Patients are limited to six mature plants and a pound and a half of processed cannabis at one time. Voters turned down a measure last year that would have allowed cardholders to buy marijuana from dispensaries.
Legislatures in several of the 16 states where medical marijuana is legal are looking at ways to make it easier for police to distinguish between the good guys and the bad guys.
Nevada is considering a pilot program that would have the state Board of Pharmacy certify commercial processors serving medical marijuana patients. The Washington House approved a bill designed to bring medical marijuana dispensaries out of a legal gray area by licensing cannabis producers and protecting patients and physicians from arrest. Colorado is considering legislation to shine a spotlight on caregivers, creating a database accessible by police that would include whether their pot is being grown. The Montana Legislature tried to overturn the whole program approved by voters in 2004, but Gov. Brian Schweitzer vetoed the bill.
In Oregon, Senate Bill 777 was headed for a Wednesday work session in the Senate Health Care Committee, but Sen. Floyd Prozanski, D-Eugene, said a 48-hour rule made it impossible for it to go through a required session in the Judiciary Committee he chairs before the Thursday deadline for bills. He added that any changes to the medical marijuana law, which had been approved by voters, needed to go through a measured, public process and develop consensus.
Wolfe said he only got a look at the proposed reforms on Thursday, and had fundamental objections to several.