Oregon’s medical marijuana program needs improvement, dozens of people testified during a three-hour legislative hearing.
Among proposals is having state grow, tax and sell it in pharmacies.
But there’s little agreement on how exactly to fix it.
Lawmakers are considering more than a dozen bills that would tweak the decade-old law.
“The system that we have today is out of control,” Rep. Ron Maurer, R-Grants Pass, said.
The most controversial proposal: Barring patients and caregivers from growing their own medical marijuana. Instead, the state would take over that role, supplying pharmacies. Patients would pay a state tax of $98 per ounce.
It is estimated that 10,000 pounds of medical marijuana are used per month, Maurer said, which potentially could bring in $188 million per year for the state.
“That could create jobs,” he said.
But patients said they worry about pesticides and other contaminants. Many are on disability and could not afford the tax. And different strains and strengths of the plant are needed for various ailments, they said.
“One kind of marijuana would not work with all patients,” said Melodie Silverwolf, with Oregon NORML.
Other bills would clarify employee and employer rights.
Employers often are caught between state and federal drug-free workplace laws and the medical marijuana law, industry representatives said.
“We’re being forced to accommodate something that is federally illegal,” said J.L. Wilson of Associated Oregon Industries.
Oregon’s share of the federal stimulus money could even be at risk because the money comes with strict drug-free workplace rules, employment lawyer Paula Barran said.
Employees, meanwhile, want assurance they won’t be the targets of discrimination because they are in the medical marijuana program.
Patients also complained that there isn’t enough medical marijuana available, forcing them to go to the black market. And many doctors refuse to consider prescribing medical marijuana, they said.
Lawmakers plan to set up a work group to hash out differences on House Bill 3274, which would set up the state production facility, said committee chair Rep. Mike Schaufler, D-Happy Valley.
“My intention here is to legitimize this substance and get it into the hands of those who need it and not to those who don’t, and to maintain privacy,” Schaufler said.
tloew@StatesmanJournal.com or (503) 399-6779
Medical marijuana bills
House Bill 2497 expands employers’ ability to prohibit the use of medical marijuana in the workplace.
House Bill 2503 prohibits employment discrimination based on a person’s status as a medical marijuana registry card holder or use of medical marijuana off employment site or during non-employment hours.
House Bill 2881 establishes procedures for employment-related marijuana drug testing and review of results by a medical review officer.
House Bill 3052 allows employers to prohibit the use of medical marijuana at Oregon work sites.
House Bill 3274 Directs the state Department of Human Services to establish and operate a marijuana production facility and distribute marijuana to pharmacies for dispensing to patients and caregivers.
Senate Bill 285 classifies marijuana as a Schedule II controlled substance.
Senate Bill 388 changes the amounts of marijuana that patients and caregivers can possess.
Senate Bill 426 expands the ability of employers to prohibit the use of medical marijuana in the workplace.
Senate Bill 427 requires applicant for medical marijuana registry card to notify employer before using marijuana and provides that employers are not required to make workplace accommodations regardless of where marijuana use occurs.
Senate Bill 812 creates registered medical marijuana dispensaries, creates a state program to assist low-income patients obtain marijuana, and allows the state to conduct research on efficacy and safety of medical marijuana.
Senate Bill 893 prohibits employment discrimination based on status as medical marijuana card holder or use of medical marijuana off employment premises or during non-work hours.
Senate Bill 956 modifies definitions related to marijuana for certain criminal laws.
Senate Bill 957 modifies provisions of the medical marijuana law, including a requirement to report the address of grow sites.
Senate Bill 958 modifies the medical marijuana law relating to caregivers.
Senate Bill 959 prohibits medical marijuana grow sites within 1,000 feet of a school.
Senate Bill 960 requires patients and caregivers to allow inspections of grow sites.