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Physicians’ Perspective on Medical Marijuana by Dr. Rick Bayer

After voters passed the Oregon Medical Marijuana Act (OMMA) in 1998, our Department of Human Services (DHS) established the Oregon Medical Marijuana Program to register patients to use medical marijuana. Stormy Ray and I were chief petitioners for the OMMA. I helped write it, filed it, and was spokesperson for Oregonians for Medical Rights, the PAC that sponsored the OMMA.

Last fall, voters defeated Measure 74, a dispensary initiative sponsored by Voter Power, a patient advocacy group. In 2011, patients must still be healthy enough to grow or fortunate enough to find a grower, because sales remain illegal.

Recently, Law Enforcement worked with the Stormy Ray Cardholder’s Foundation (SRCF) to craft a new dispensary bill. Unfortunately, SRCF chose not to invite the other 99% of the medical marijuana community.

This SRCF bill started as LC-798. It is now titled HB 3046. Oregon Representative Mike Schaufler introduced this bill into the 2011 legislative session.

The SRCF Co-op bill, HB 3046, will irreparably damage the delicate balance of our OMMA resulting in dire consequences for patients. This bill should be buried in committee and no changes to the OMMA should be planned for 2011.

Why is the SRCF Co-op model a bad idea? If you can find LC-798, you will see the SRCF cover letter accuses patients of abuse. There are about 60,000 registered OMMA cardholders—bigger than most Oregon cities. Most investigated complaints are about bad neighbors rather than issues unique to marijuana growing. Noise ordinances and leash laws apply to everyone.

Another premise behind HB 3046 is wrong where SRCF says, “... the overwhelming reason most patients don’t have the medicine they need is they cannot afford to grow.” The accurate reason is that many patients are too sick to grow so they require help from others.

The bad parts of HB 3046 begin in Section 2, Part (3)(c). It says the SRCF dispensary certification must have at least 10 patients who assign grow site cards to the cooperative. This will not work. This means at least 240 plants with 60 mature in one site—likely a neighborhood home—instead of our current limits of 96 plants with 24 mature. SRCF dispensaries will be a magnet to the feds and worsen bad neighbor problems. Marijuana criminal defense lawyers tell us that no lawyer will advise any client to participate in the SRCF model for fear of arrest.

Section 2, Part (3)(g) invites warrantless law enforcement searches of homes where the dispensary is located. The 4th amendment of the US Constitution prohibits unwarranted police searches. Even if SRCF places no value in our Constitution, lawyers warn that simple mistakes—like the 12 inch rule for a cutting before it legally becomes a mature plant—will cause arrests. Any patient who fears arrest will avoid the SRCF Co-op model.

Section 2, Part (6) can entrap an unsuspecting patient into violating federal law by participating in a SRCF Co-op. A simple majority vote by the Co-op can turn a patient into an ignorant federal conspirator even if s/he doesn’t attend meetings or vote.

Section 3, Part (4) contains the most egregious attack on patients. This cuts in half—from four to two—the number of patients a grower may serve. This will leave nearly all homebound patients without medicine as growers must dump two patients to comply with HB 3046. We already have a shortage of growers and must rely on growing our own medicine or getting others to grow for us. The standard in Oregon now is often a healthier couple growing for themselves reluctantly taking on one or two more patients who are unable to grow because of illness. Our current model flies under federal radar with a maximum of 96 plants with 24 mature per site. And it still allows homebound patients to be added to established growers since the patient limit is four instead of the two required by HB 3046. The SRCF bullies the sickest patients into a corner where the patient either risks arrest or risks having no medicine at all. That’s why this part is the worst part of HB 3046.

The final part of the bill, Section 20 declaring it an emergency, is a cynical ploy by SRCF to spike any democratic voter referendum by patient advocates.

Voters express concerns about economic motives behind dispensaries but the SRCF model is the worst because it coerces patients into dispensaries by poisoning the underlying OMMA. This bill inflicts harm on the most vulnerable—those who are homebound. As a physician, I say this is nothing but an attack on the sickest.

Please help patients stop the SRCF Co-op bill HB 3046 by contacting:

Oregon Representative Mike Schaufler
900 Court St. NE, H-382
Salem, OR, 97301
Capitol Phone: 503-986-1448
District Phone: 503-760-4446
Email: [email protected]
Interim Email: [email protected]

Rick Bayer, MD is board-certified in internal medicine, a fellow in the American College of Physicians, and practiced in Oregon for many years. Co-author of Is Marijuana the Right Medicine For You? A Factual Guide to Medical Uses of Marijuana, he was the filing chief petitioner for the Oregon Medical Marijuana Act in 1998, and manages www.omma1998.org that includes a medical cannabis/marijuana bibliography.

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