Oregon Senate Approves Medical Marijuana Dispensary Bill

SALEM, OR — The Oregon Senate voted Wednesday to approve a bill that a House-approved bill that would expand the state’s medical marijuana program to license and regulate medical marijuana dispensaries statewide.

The bill, House Bill 3460, was approved without debate by an 18-12 bi-partisan, and now heads back to the House to approve some changes made by a Senate committee last week.  The House is expected to vote on the changes this weekend.

Medical marijuana dispensaries already exist in Oregon, but are operating in a legal grey area.  The Oregon Medical Marijuana Act (OMMA) allows patients to grow their own medicine or have someone else to it for them, but does not provide for — or prohibit — medical marijuana dispensaries from operating.

This has led to varied differences in toleration of the dispensaries based on the attitudes of local officials.  In some areas of the state, such as Multnomah County, which includes the city of Portland, dispensaries have been largely tolerated.  But providers have been raided in less tolerant areas of the state, with operators  facing prosecution in Jackson, Lane, Washington, and Malheur counties.

The proposed bill, House Bill 3460, aims to change that by directing the Oregon Health Authority, who oversees the Oregon Medical Marijuana Program, to establish a registration system for medical marijuana facilities.

The bill was introduced by Rep. Peter Buckley and Sen. Floyd Prozanski, both Democrats, and has received endorsements from state Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum, the League of Oregon Cities and U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer.

Under the bill, dispensaries would be required to seek a license from the Oregon Medical Marijuana Program similar to the license that patients and registered growers are required to obtain under current law. Dispensary operators would have to pass criminal background checks, log the amount of marijuana coming into their businesses, and verify that it is being grown by state-registered growers.

The facilities also would have to comply with regulations for pesticides, mold and mildew testing, which will help ensure medication isn’t contaminated.

Each medical marijuana facility would pay a registration fee of $4,000, according to the bill’s fiscal note. If an estimated 225 facilities register, the state would receive about $900,000 in the next two years. Revenue from the fees would help offset the cost of creating and running a new registration system.

Two significant changes were made to the bill last week by the Senate Committee on Rules following concerns voiced from the Oregon District Attorneys Association, who changed their position on the bill from “opposed” to “neutral” after the changes were made.

In the original bill, anyone with two or more prior convictions for distribution or manufacturing a controlled substance in the state of Oregon would be prohibited from operating a dispensary. Under the changes made Saturday, the restrictions were expanded to apply to anyone with one prior conviction, regardless of where that conviction took place.

The other significant change was the elimination of a provision included in the original bill that limited the criminal liability of existing medical marijuana dispensaries in the state if they are prosecuted before the new law takes effect.

If the changes are approved by the House as expected, the bill would be sent to the desk of Gov. John Kitzhaber (D), who recently signed two marijuana penalty reduction measures into law.

The bill would take effect in 2014.

Oregon Senate Approves Medical Marijuana Dispensary Bill was written by and appears in full on The Daily Chronic.

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