Cannabis Dispensary Bill Passes House

Medical marijuana patients too sick or inexperienced to grow their own cannabis might have new options

House Bill 3460 passed 31-27 in the Oregon House June 24, and the Senate was gearing up to vote as EW went to press June 26.

“Right now patients obtaining medicine often have to be in the gray areas of the law, and that’s not good for anybody,” says John Sajo, who co-authored Oregon’s medical marijuana initiative. About 200 medical marijuana dispensaries, collectives or cafes now operate in Oregon’s legal gray area, according to the Associated Press. In the past year, authorities have busted two Eugene-area medical dispensaries, The Greener Side and Kannabosm.

The Oregon Medical Marijuana Program (OMMP) gives participating patients or their caregivers the right to maintain up to six mature plants, but advocates of dispensaries say not everybody wants to grow cannabis or knows someone who can grow it well, so some patients end up turning to the black market.

In addition to making medical cannabis easier for patients to access, Sajo says there are benefits in health, safety and quality control. “The basic idea is that patients should know what they’re getting,” he says. “It’s helpful, medically, to know what the percentages of the active ingredients are,” and the Oregon Department of Health can add requirements to screen for molds and pesticides.

HB 3460 includes regulations such as no dispensaries in residential neighborhoods or within 1,000 feet of schools, which Sajo says is reasonable. “We don’t have other businesses in residential neighborhoods — we don’t have pharmacies there — so that’s just common sense.”

The bill allows for regulations to be added. “There are a lot of complicated issues still out there,” Sajo says, including federal laws making it difficult for dispensaries to obtain bank accounts, potentially complicating efforts to regulate and audit them.

A representative from the office of Eugene Sen. Floyd Prozanski, a longtime advocate of marijuana policy reform and co-sponsor of the bill, says that Prozanski thinks there’s sufficient support to get 16 votes in the Oregon Senate, and a vote would likely happen Wednesday, June 26, sending it to the governor’s desk.