Physicians' Perspective Domino Effect: New Barrier to Old Medicine by Dr. Rick Bayer
Oregonians passed the Oregon Medical Marijuana Act (OMMA) by voter initiative in 1998 but opponents still threaten it. The Oregon Medical Marijuana Program (OMMP) annual permit is $100 for most but is discounted to $20 for the nearly 30% of registrants on the Oregon Health Plan or SSI. Patients can barely afford these fees. Yet, medical marijuana opponents seek a large fee increase.
The Domino Effect: A Business Plan for Rebuilding Substance Abuse Prevention, Treatment, and Recovery. Prepared for: Governor Kulongoski and Members of the Oregon Legislative Assembly By The Governor’s Council on Alcohol & Drug Abuse Programs proposes to: “Increase medical marijuana card application and renewal fee to $150 and earmark revenue above the level required to administer the program for prevention, treatment and recovery services program beginning in the 2007-2009 biennium”. See: www.oregon.gov/DHS/addiction/publications/07-09businessplan.pdf
Senate Bill (SB) 1085, passed during the 2005 Legislative Session, established the Department of Human Services (DHS) Advisory Committee on Medical Marijuana (ACMM). The new statute says the ACMM shall “advise the [DHS] director on the administrative aspects of the Oregon Medical Marijuana Program, review current administrative rules of the program and provide annual input on the fee structure of the program”.
The Domino Effect directly impacts the fee structure of the program. The ACMM voted unanimously to oppose all medical marijuana portions of The Domino Effect. Medical marijuana advocates see a discriminatory medicine tax that disproportionately burdens the poor; worsens access to medicine; and wastes taxpayer money.
The Domino Effect received no input from medical cannabis patients or advocates. It provides no evidence that medical cannabis raises costs to Oregonians. It ignores patient reports that medical cannabis lowers tax burden. For many patients, including those on the Oregon Health Plan, herbal cannabis replaces more expensive pharmaceuticals.
The Domino Effect tax targets Oregonians with pain syndromes, cancer, HIV, Multiple Sclerosis, and other health problems. It ignores patients getting discounted fees and others who cannot afford expensive annual fees. If registration fees become unaffordable, then unregistered medical marijuana gardens increase substantially. Unregistered patients risk being arrested and processed through the criminal justice system, which leads to unnecessary human suffering at taxpayer expense. Bipartisan efforts to craft SB 1085 included legislators, patient advocates, and Law Enforcement all working to remedy this.
An editorial in the June 23 Bend Bulletin mocked The Domino Effect as a new “Sin Tax”. The Bulletin concluded, “A better plan would be to treat medical marijuana and those who use it as Oregonians and the law intended. The governor’s council should drop this silly fundraising scheme and move on.”
All who support our Oregon Medical Marijuana Act, please contact Governor Kulongoski and ask him to oppose the medical marijuana parts of The Domino Effect. The Governor’s contact information is here: http://governor.oregon.gov/Gov/contact_us.shtml.
Richard “Rick” Bayer, MD, FACP is board-certified in internal medicine, a Fellow in the American College of Physicians (FACP), and practiced in Oregon many years. He is an author of: Is Marijuana the Right Medicine For You? A Factual Guide to Medical Uses of Marijuana; an author and a chief-petitioner of the Oregon Medical Marijuana Act of 1998; has appeared as a medical cannabis expert witness in Oregon state courts, and maintains a medical cannabis bibliography linked from www.omma1998.org.