Marijuana Dispensaries…bad news for Oregon

shutterstock_121570756I was asked by a leading Oregon prevention activist to write an op-ed piece about marijuana dispensaries.  Since the timing corresponded with my mid-week blog post, I’ll share it here. Please let me know your thoughts on this subject.

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The Oregon State Legislature recently passed HB3460, a bill that now sits on Governor Kitzhaber’s desk. If signed, Oregon moves one step closer to the legalization of marijuana. Didn’t we vote against dispensary

Measure 74 as recently as 2010, and against legalization just eight short months ago? I’m frankly distressed the legislature would attempt to pass a law so recently voted down by the public (twice). What kind of democracy is this?

HB3460 creates new provisions under the Oregon Medical Marijuana Program (OMMP), requiring the Oregon Health Authority to establish and administer a registration system of medical marijuana dispensaries. This facilitates the transfer of marijuana between grow sites and cardholders via storefronts.

Voters did say “yes” in 1998 to Oregon’s current medical marijuana program in order to meet the needs of a small percentage of people with very specific health needs. While I felt compassion at that time for those who suffered, and voted with the majority, I now feel hoodwinked. What we have seen in the past fourteen years is a program that is largely a front for ongoing substance abuse and illegal activity.

The current number of OMMP patients is 54,917 and the number of growers 41,752. To quote Oregon’s U.S Attorney, Amanda Marshall, “the math for medical marijuana growers does not add up.” The plants grown in southern Oregon are 8 – 10 feet tall, and they produce 6 – 10 pounds of smokable product…why are you growing six plants per cardholder, when each cardholder can only get 1.5 pounds?” While I have no doubt there are some legitimate card holders, over 90 percent of cards issued thus far are for “pain,” not for a specific disease or disability. Also alarming is the fact that just ten Oregon doctors account for 56 percent of all card recommendations (“prescriptions”).

It’s no secret that most of the surplus product ends up on the street. Oregon State Rep. Andy Olson, a 29-year veteran of the Oregon State Police and a dissenter on HB3460, reports “nearly 40 percent of pot seized on the nation’s most common drug-trafficking routes during the first three months of this year was tied to the Oregon Medical Marijuana Program.”

There are already several dispensaries operating in Bend and I’m concerned about the health and safety of our youth. A study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry reports that 74% of the teens in substance abuse programs in Colorado indicate using diverted medical marijuana as their source. Do we want this for Oregon? States with medical marijuana laws, including our own, show abuse/dependence rates almost twice that of states without such laws. Furthermore, given the unique vulnerability of the adolescent brain, research shows that marijuana addiction rates among teens users is now 1 in 6!

Many think natural / green / medicine when they think of marijuana. But the truth is there’s nothing natural about marijuana. Today’s “weed” isn’t a weed at all, but a highly engineered product that is indeed addictive.

In her letter Monday to Governor Kitzhaber, L.A. District Attorney, Jackie Lacey, had this to say. “Although regulating marijuana activities in your state may be a noble endeavor, legalizing marijuana sales through the storefront model is not the answer. We know this first-hand. As a result of its failure to prohibit storefront pot shops from the inception, the City of Los Angeles has been hit by an onslaught of lawsuits after the City tried to stop the damage it had created…costing the City millions of dollars. Our empirical evidence proves that storefront pot shops are merely fronts for drug dealing. It is imperative that marijuana activities and profit be kept mutually exclusive.”

I urge all Oregonians who care about our youth and the future of our state, to contact the Governor’s office and request a veto of HB3460.   ~~~~~

Please share your thoughts below. Because I take your privacy seriously, feel free to substitute a pseudonym, or the word “anonymous,” if you prefer not to use your real name. Please know that your e-mail address, though required in order to prevent spam, will never be published.

Author: Barbara Stoefen

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12 Comments

  1. Your comments are clear that you see where it is necessary medically for some people and there are better ways to provide that access. I absolutely agree. I wonder how many of the folks who have commented negatively here (and those all over that agree with them) about your views have had their families ravaged by addiction and saw someone you love have their life destroyed or more tragically lost? If you disagree with the opinion of stopping the legalization of marijuana, I urge you to do the research, educate yourself. Talk to some people who are in recovery or their families. Its everywhere and its devastating. Those prone to addiction start with alcohol or marijuana and soon are in a battle for their life.

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  2. Good respond in return of this issue with real arguments and telling the
    whole thing regarding that.

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  3. Hi again, Corey. First let me say how very sorry I am that you suffer from AIDS. I am sincere when I say I’m glad you’ve found relief from your symptoms with medical marijuana. That is what I was hoping for when I voted in favor of the mmj law several years ago. Should I ever be in your shoes, I too would likely seek relief from marijuana.

    My article is about what medical marijuana has become, and the laws as they are currently written. Here in Oregon, it was intended that a very small percentage of the population would be using our mmj, for diseases such as yours, yet there are now over 60,000 card holders in the state. Bend (my city) has more mmj dispensaries to service 3,100 card holders than it does pharmacies to service a population over 100,000. Something is out of whack.

    Virtually anyone can get a card. Peer reviewed research shows that the average mmj cardholder is a 30-something white male without cancer, without HIV/AIDS, without glaucoma, MS or a terminal illness. It is this vulnerability in the law that concerns me…not the treating of people who truly need it.

    Drug prevention science says the more the availability of a drug, the higher the use among teens. That is my greatest concern. Even proponents for legalizing mj outright do not advocate teen use, but that will likely be the net effect as more mj becomes available and it becomes more normalized into our culture. Those are my concerns. I in no way challenge your right to get the relief that mmj is obviously providing.

    Wishing you peace and healing.
    Barb

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  4. I’ve been able to replace 4 different daily pills since using mmj related to my aids symptoms. My specialist didn’t raise an eyebrow when I said I wanted to peruse a green card, in fact he said his only concern was whether or not he could legally sign for me with not being my primary care doctor. He mentioned that in his ~30 years of experiences with aids patients, it’s been the most useful drug for the most number of symptoms for a majority of his patients. Weed has only been illegal in the usa for about 100 yrs, and was deemed such basically so white women wouldn’t smoke it then want to have sex with a black or Mexican guy. Yes I’m serious, that was the level of racist mindset a century ago. The only reason weed is still illegal is because the government wouldn’t make money off people growing their own medicine. This article is ridiculous to the point of absurdity and seems like just another series of statistics without basis to scare the ignorant and thoughtless masses.

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  5. There is no legitimacy to claims growers produce 10′ tall plants with 5+ pounds per plant per harvest. Id bet less than 5% of all produced in oregon is grown that way and only by the most elite of black market gardeners. This story is far more propaganda than facts of any kind. So pointed in the wrong direction i truely wonder why anyone would spread such overwhelmingly false information on this subject. Leads me to believe somehow the writer personally benefits from the mass of people suffering a myriad of diagnosed problems. With responsible use of extracts from this plant, that never induce any brain altering chemicals into the blood/brain barrier in any way that can eliminate ALL or nearly all need for any poisonous big money drug company pills that self admittedly only mask symptoms. The truth is doctors call what they do practice, that means they are hit and miss at best. How many perscription drugs released in last 50 years have NOT been recalled for killing people despite the rushed through, unbalanced, and unmonitered system our current FDA has in place? Then find out how many marijuana patients have reported adverse reactions to medicinal marijuana, followed by legimate doctor confirmation of said reactions.
    The only people fighting marijuana for medicinal use is big money drug companies, police who recieve billions to violate the rights of its citizens who are finally registering to vote in a system that has completely and utterly failed them. Oh, and the occasional political system enthusiast seeking to gain the votes of the uneducated and financially based biased profiting off keeping the system us pitifully unsuccessful as it is. That would definitely include anyone illegally “producing” plants the size and in the quantities stated in this article as if it were the norm. You failed to mention every single parameter you mentioned is a direct violation of the MM laws in place. The people you have disdain for were breaking the law long before those plants were ever harvested. They are not growing medicine if producing black market amounts to sell on the streets. Infact anyone “selling” anything is also violating cutrent MM laws and most likely would not stop growing ever, even if there was no legal system. These new laws only allow for set restrictions, checks & balances, and taxable income to be generated for people who do follow the laws. Those who make up the black markets can then be distinguished and removed from the system. Good people seek to do good, baddo bad, Medicine and doctors treat both good and bad.
    Also, how could you mention the laws on the governors desk like its crazy bad for us that power is in his hands? He is a doctor for crying outloud!! As one of the most popular politicians in recent oregon history and high level physician. id say at least from my/everyone ive ever met’s position both for/against MM that no one in office remotely is as/more qualified to make a sound decision, and the correct decision.
    Stating you voted for MM followed by that article is ment to give what your spreading some since of “middle ground” to your sense of reason to the yet undecided readers. Infact you are trying to mask how unapologeticly one sided every single last other word/sentence is. How narrow the view of a broad reality this story represents. Why quote cops about to lose funding and jobs? Why not lawfully abiding growers about to gain a job? Why not a single patient? Because reality is very much in contrast with this “news” story. Seriously, calm down and try reporting about a way for the system to improve, don’t just write another complaint for the current one . nobody is happy with the current one except those currently bennefiting from the way it is. Dr. And patients are speaking up, those in pain and those trying to help them are helpless in the current system. They are not suffering from greed as your claims suggest. They are suffering from pain, lack of educational system, and toxic results from toxic drugs for which outside MM there is absolutely no alternatives. Leaving things as ineffective and inefficient as they are in medicine outside the states “loophole” is just no longer an option. We cannot keep sending drug companies with horrific documented violations big money for the next “soon to be recalled” completely dangerous understudied synthetic substance. Every single current form of “pain management”pills if your wondering which ones on current market labeled “legal” im referring too. They are all extremely toxic in proveable fact. However supported whole heartedly by heartless people in my opinion.
    Medicinal Marijuana advocates seeking MORE checks and balances, more legal system monitering, and the ability to legitimately report their crops final destinations while paying taxes on any income produced subsequently ARE NOT THE PROBLEM this story is deceitfully directed at. Criminals growing “addictive” dope for black market income and extreme illegal amounts to generate unclaimed income don’t care either way, they will not stop for any law or respect any lawman. For the love of your neighbor and good of the entire state, please Quit claiming most involved are criminals commiting crime. Here you only attack those seeking legislation to seperate the work they do from that exact black market crowd that abuses a system they don’t respect, abide by, or plan on suffering the consequences of its actions.
    I wish i had something positive to say here, but outside an anti marijuana rally i see nothing written with positive intent to comment on. Please correct me if im wrong. First impressions are only correct 95+% of the time. I certainly didnt judge this book solely on its cover. Doesnt mean the writers personal opinions and beliefs are so one sided, just one side only got written down for reasons i know nothing about.
    Sincerely, Jared Anderson. Citizen of Coos County, felony free record, nonpolitical party affiliated. I do not posses MM Card to use marijuana because i am not in chronic pain although i am diagnosed with asthma, for which MM does help and is approved to prescribe for as abundant oxygen levels in my bloodstream would drastically reduce damage done to brain/body during attacks. Wouldn’t smoke if i ever was perscribed for my asthma, which is why edible extract of active ingrediant tetrahydrocabinol would make much more sense.l

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  6. Barbara,

    We totally agree with what you are saying! AGAIN why isn’t MMJ distributed by pharmacies for the people that medically need it? Otherwise it should be totally illegal. We don’t need another legal alcohol type drug!

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    • Thank you for weighing in on this. At the risk of sounding like Chicken Little, marijuana is simply more dangerous than most people realize. I don’t have a solution to this very complex problem, but agree with the many treatment and prevention professionals who believe more marijuana in our communities will result in increased addiction rates.

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    • Considering alcohol and tobacco consumption directly lead to millions of deaths a year, how can you possibly think weed is in any way worse? In the history of the world, there has never been a death directly related to consuming marijuana. By your logic coffee and energy drinks should be federally regulated so people can’t abuse the caffeine fix they need every morning just to wake up.

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      • Hi Corey. Thank you so much for your post. I agree with you about alcohol and tobacco. I in no way think marijuana is worse than alcohol…and I didn’t say that it was. I didn’t even mention alcohol in my post. Alcohol indeed (and tobacco too) kills more people every year than all other drugs COMBINED. People often compare the two because of alcohol’s legality, but it’s apples and oranges thinking.

        Alcohol is one of the worst drugs out there. In spite of taxing and significant controls in place, teens continue to access it and it wrecks significant havoc with the lives of millions.

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  7. As a MMJ patient of WA state, I am concerned with your comment in the following:

    “Many think natural / green / medicine when they think of marijuana. But the truth is there’s nothing natural about marijuana. Today’s “weed” isn’t a weed at all, but a highly engineered product that is indeed addictive.”

    Do you have research in backing this? I know that the medicine that I take for a MS-like disease, is in fact grown organically and is not “laced” or otherwise. I do not have cravings for it and only take it before I lay down for bedtime.

    This article concerns me as a very legitimate patient, that you are putting it out there that “todays weed” is “highly engineered product”, that is “indeed addictive”. First of all as a MMJ (medical marijuana) patient, whether it is or isn’t addictive, is a mute point. I was able to stop taking two prescription drugs, thanks to the mmj. I no longer am having to pay for and ingest two chemically made, toxin filled prescriptions, that very well could have led to cancer causing tumors and many other side effects. I get the concern about kids. I too, am concerned that access should indeed be limited and unavailable to minors. However, punishing MMJ patients like myself who are benefitting greatly with having access to a dispensary is not your answer. Put up some good stiff fines on the dispensaries for not selling it inappropriately, or I am sure there are many other options to regulating MMJ, much the same as we do alcohol.

    Alcohol is responsible for far more deaths and addiction issues than mmj. We probably need to really consider prohibition for THAT, opposed to MMJ, with the amount that minors and irresponsible drinkers that are killing people daily. As an educated adult who never did illegal drugs, to now be an MMJ patient (by doctor recommendation only), I had never had any interest in drugs and furthermore, hated taking the prescriptions, as well. I am pleased that I have been able to lessen medical issues as well as drop prescription meds, too.

    I understand the need to protect and regulate. However, I feel that there is little consideration for legitimate patients who responsibly, are treating serious medical conditions under a doctors care. I am really sick and tired of feeling like because I don’t fit into the little “painted pill popping box”, that I shouldn’t have the same rights as those who do. If I’m being recommended by a legitimate doctor (not a doc in a box who only does mmj recommendations), then I should be able to have access to my medication without worry due to “concerns about today’s weed”. Do not lump MMJ patients in with street users who are degenerate and in need of detox, counsel and much more regardless of access to MMJ. Please, have a little respect for those of us who are following doctors advice that fits our needs. Not all MMJ patients are turning their meds over to street dealers! I would never ever allow it, and yeah I know, that’s just me… however, I am not alone.

    I hope this helps to ring a bit of insight to this article.

    Thank you~

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    • Hello Anon,

      Thank you so much for your post! You are one of the people whose needs I voted to support in 1998. Clearly a person for whom medical marijuana in Oregon was intended, my comments are not directed towards you. It’s the many growers and storefronts with nefarious intent with whom I take issue. Marijuana has become big business and many behind MMJ are in it for that reason. But again, many people, like yourself, have been helped medicinally. I in no way challenge your right to get this help, and if needed, might even seek it myself someday.

      I guess I feel that if marijuana is going to be used as medicine, why don’t we control it out of pharmacies like other medications?

      My comment about “weed” refers to a time, years ago, when weed was truly a weed. Today’s plant is carefully cultivated, sometimes hydroponically, with THC levels recorded in Oregon as high as 37%. The weed of the 1960’s, 1970’s, even the 1980’s was a mere .5% to 1.% THC. While we never thought of marijuana as being addictive back then, it truly is addictive now. That’s not to say, however, that all who use become addicted. Among adults the rate is about 10%…the same as for alcohol. Among adolescents, the statistic is 1 in 6.

      Data to back up all of my statements can be found at many of the websites I cite on the Resources page of this site.

      I’m concerned about kids an am trying to primarily educate parents. Our states relaxing attitudes towards marijuana sends a message that perpetuates a low perception of harm. The fact is, marijuana is not some benign drug, and it is more dangerous for kids than it is for adults.

      Your statements about alcohol are absolutely correct. It kills more people every year than all other drugs combined. Don’t get me started on that one : )

      Thank you again, Anon, for weighing in. I wish you peace and good health.

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      • I guess it would be best to weigh in with regard to “speaking towards parents who may not be aware” but also, mention about MMJ. I’m still concerned as when I read your article, I sit back and think that this is fueling the minds of those who are not as familiar with the benefits of MMJ for medical reasons. I feel that there is a very strong need for education in regards to MMJ as well as protecting our children, and yes the money grubbing people who are only in the industry for monetary gains. I am grateful to know people who are in the industry of HELPing people like myself, and not making bux off of me.

        I would like to live in a world where I didn’t get ‘looks’ from those who are un-educated about the MMJ and the benefits that it helps with medicinally. It’s when I read an article like this that I hear “see… it’s bad for you!!” from some of those who chose to see MMJ as a “gateway drug” instead of medicine that is amazing to be able to cure and heal so many things the way it does.

        I guess I would just like to see more clarity when I read an article like this. I agree… don’t get me going on alcohol and the lives it ruins every hour. 😉 Thank you for your reply.

        ~A

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