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Medical Marijuana Dispensaries Stay Open in Marion County Amid Resolution Against ThemBonnie King Salem-News.com
Will this anti-dispensary resolution affect the unincorporated areas of Marion County? Most likely.
(SALEM) - Two steps forward, one step back. Within a week of President Obama’s pro-marijuana statement, and Oregon’s Governor’s encouragement for the legislature to act on legalizing recreational marijuana (21+), the Marion County Commissioners have taken a different approach to progress.
The subject in front of the Marion County Commissioners was not about recreational marijuana. They convened to discuss making an official resolution against legal medical marijuana patients having access to medicine via dispensaries. Knowing full well that no pharmacy can sell cannabis to patients, they want the world to know that they are against dispensaries in this county, regardless of the risk of harm to its citizens.
As public comment was opened up, OMMP patient Chris Oss told the board, “It will cost 75-100 jobs in Marion County. Keep the dispensaries open with better regulations in compliance with law enforcement.”
Jeremy Bruce is a supplier of medical marijuana to local dispensaries. He looks at the reimbursement storefront model as a success. “This is taxable income. If they buy it on the street, you don’t get the taxes. Study other states and see how well it’s going there. In Colorado, for instance, they made $1.5 million for the state in one month.”
Charlotte Kaul works for a local dispensary and is herself an OMMP patient. She spoke about the evidence she has witnessed firsthand, “I knew a family from church who’s 5-year old died from cancer. His family was very straight-laced and not at all into drugs. Medical marijuana gave their little boy some of the only relief he had in those last days, and I couldn’t be happier that he had legal access.” The meeting room erupted with applause.
“I’ve seen people suffering from opiate addictions give it up with the help of Cannabis, and alcoholics stop drinking, not even a single drop, because they had Cannabis,” she said, heads nodding in agreement throughout the room.
Patty Predes worked with the Sheriff’s Dept in another Oregon County for 14 years. She has a degree in behavioral psychology and counseling. She worked with and interviewed innumerable prisoners year after year, and learned what was the most common denominator between the offenders.
“What causes crime in our communities? Not marijuana. Alcohol, methamphetamines and heroin cause crime,” Predes told the Commissioners.
“I am an educated, professional woman. I decided to try Cannabis for my arthritis, and it works. If you close Marion County medical marijuana dispensaries, I will go without my medicine. I will not buy on the streets; I want to know where my medicine comes from.”
Amy Zimmerman, owner of 1st Choice Cannabis, held up a sign proclaiming she “doesn’t want her son to buy medicine from a drug dealer”. This is a strong point with patients everywhere. Knowing what the quality and other details about marijuana as medicine is extremely important to patients.
Powers That Be Speak Their Peace
Marion County Sheriff Jason Myers spoke in support of the passage of the anti-marijuana resolution.
“I oppose dispensaries,” stated the Sheriff. He said he is concerned about the lack of oversight, lack of local control, and has questions about decision making in regard to the dispensary bill that was approved by the Oregon Legislature and goes into effect in just a few weeks.
“Substance abuse and mental illness are two of the main problems [in crime prevention]. This bill makes marijuana accessible to more than just patients. I have interviewed hundreds of users, they always say marijuana was one of the drugs they used first.”
Marion County District Attorney Walt Beglau said, “Without reservation, I support this resolution against medical marijuana dispensaries in Marion County, which aligns us with Federal law.”
“Our community has prioritized its values: family, health and public safety. Values that are at risk as this expands. Addiction yields harm to citizens. 3460 has weak internal controls, and background checks.” The District Attorney also said that marijuana is addictive, which brought a roar from the audience. The subject of marijuana addiction is pure propaganda by the standards of most, if not all, people in the “canna-community”.
“This resolution reflects the interests of the citizens in Marion County,” he concluded.
Attorney for the Board of Commissioners (county counsel), Gloria Roy, explained to those present that “This resolution is a “policy statement”, not a document that will control anything.”
And then she added, “It will only affect unincorporated areas of Marion County.”
DA Beglau said there are two focused areas of concern in law enforcement, “One, is the capacity to regulate, including staffing; and Two, is that there are no internal controls.”
To which, one audience member stood and said aloud, “That is untrue. We have to do a background check.” And he left the meeting.
Attorney Gloria Roy responded by stating that there is a background check performed before a dispensary can open, and it is on the person responsible for the business. She added that the person’s information is held in confidentiality by the Oregon Health Authority (OHA), so details are not accessible to law enforcement. The “owner” passed the background check or they wouldn’t have the approval to open a dispensary, but it was clear that not being privy to the private records of these owners is very bothersome to law enforcement.
Support for the Anti-Pot Resolution
Janet Carlson said that in looking at other states, the feedback she got regarding Washington and Colorado gave her concerns.
Sheriff Jason Myers then stated that, since the most recent marijuana law passed, “In Washington, there was a 50% rise in auto crashes prior to January 1st.” He did not offer the source of that citation, and nothing that we can find supports this claim, though there is one erroneous story on a right-wing blog from 2012 that may be where the misstated anecdote sprouted from. If so, it is one of many such unsubstantiated, and trite, statements made in the same article, none of which should be repeated as fact.
The Sheriff also claimed that marijuana use decreases a longtime user’s IQ by 8%, and referred to marijuana as a “gateway drug” though that has been disproved, mightily.
Commissioner Patty Milne said, “This puzzle is so enormous. It’s not good for the health of our citizens to rush to decisions. When data is manipulated. There’s not been enough research that’s been shared and discussed.
“[This bill] protects illegal activity because we don’t know where the legal activity is happening. Why are we doing this?” She asked rhetorically. “We are acting on emotion without thorough discussion.” Then she went on to explain to the well-informed audience that “on the Federal level, marijuana is a Schedule 1 drug.” And she read the definition of a Schedule 1 drug, which is pretty scary stuff, “Schedule I drugs, substances, or chemicals are defined as drugs with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse. Schedule I drugs are the most dangerous drugs of all the drug schedules with potentially severe psychological or physical dependence.”
Marijuana being on the Schedule 1 list with death-drugs like heroin has been a nonsensical subject for most people that have studied this subject. Even the Schedule II list of drugs is deadly with oxycodone, cocaine, methamphetamine and fentanyl all rating “safer” than marijuana (which has no documented fatalities, ever).
Milne added, “It is true that in Oregon it is a Schedule 2 drug, but we need a much, much deeper understanding.” The fact that Oregon took it upon itself to change marijuana to a Schedule 2 drug is a much more important point than it was given credit for today.
“We are rushing to make a decision without being fully informed,” Milne said.
“My biggest concern is the message being sent to the children. We don’t let people smoke cigarettes in cars with kids now, but what happens if there’s marijuana smoking in a house, or a mom makes marijuana brownies and kids get them? It happens! I have the news article!” Milne insisted. “It is detrimental to our children, our community and our society.”
The Commissioners will be interested to see the newly published report in the American Journal of Public Health which suggests states (like Oregon) that have legalized medical marijuana may see a reduction in suicide rates in young men.
Commissioner Sam Brentano objects to the lack of local control, “The state is forcing us to violate Federal law.”
“We can be special here in Marion County,” Brentano said, inferring that Marion County need not adhere to Oregon State law in lieu of the more favorable, Federal prohibition.
Walt Beglau explained that Marion County can legally do so, “I think they can. The County can regulate at a local level, and the state cannot make us do otherwise.”
Janet Carlson moved that the Resolution to oppose medical marijuana dispensaries in Marion County be approved.
Patty Milne seconded the motion.
It passed unanimously.
The crowd was visibly upset at the flurry of marijuana misnomers being thrown about, and their inability to object to non-factual statements. And then it was over.
“Patty Milne kept saying that we shouldn’t rush to make a decision, and then she seconded the motion. What gives?” asked one patient leaving the meeting.
It is clear that a deeper understanding is mandatory, and in fact, should be compulsory at this point, at least in regard to the leaders of our communities. Knowing the bare facts about marijuana and the health benefits of it as medicine is one way to connect with constituents. Threatening to remove access to medicine for sick people is another way to go.
Future is Uncertain but Steady
What this means to the future of dispensaries in Marion County, and to the patients that depend on them remains to be seen. To participate in the next step on either side of the issue, there is a Community Forum* coming up, organized to discuss the “local response to Medical Marijuana facilities and grow sites”.
On Tuesday, February 11, at 7 a.m. at the Keizer Civic Center, the Marion County Public Safety Coordinating Council is hosting a community discussion on House Bill 3460, which directs the OHA to establish a registration system for medical marijuana facilities and grow sites. This registration is expected to begin March 1. At the forum, there will be discussion on options for local ordinances and a question and answer period. Speakers will include Keizer Police Chief John Teague; Circuit Court Judge Tracy Prall; District Attorney Walt Beglau; Sheriff Jason Myers; and John Andrade, general manager of Bio-Med Testing, Inc., which is the company contracted by Marion County to do all pre-employment, and “risk” drug testing.
In 2012, a legalization measure on Oregon's General Election ballot failed with 45% of the supporting vote. Even with an underfunded campaign, it was within just a few percentage points of becoming law. Oregon voters are even more convinced of their wish to end prohibition today, and that must make some politicians nervous.
A recent poll showed that 57% of likely voters support marijuana legalization in Oregon. The end of marijuana prohibition is coming to pass, even if some politicians and others insist on standing in the way.
The upcoming Oregon Senate Bill 1556 has eight co-sponsors in both chambers of the legislature. It would allow adults to possess up to 8 ounces of marijuana in their homes or up to one ounce of marijuana anywhere else. Adults would also be allowed to grow up to four plants. The Senate Judiciary Committee is holding a public hearing on the bill on February 11. Busy day.
*There is no cost attend, however advance registration is requested athttp://www.co.marion.or.us/BOC/PSCC/CommFor.htm. Registration includes a short survey that will inform the forum's agenda. For more information please contact Don Russo at (503) 589-3264.
Bonnie King has been Publisher of Salem-News.com since August '04. She is a photographer and video producer, writer, editor and mother, which she considers her greatest position. Bonnie has served in a number of positions in the broadcast industry; TV Production Manager at KVWB (Las Vegas WB) and Producer/Director for the TV series "Hot Wheels in Las Vegas", posts as TV Promotion Director for KYMA (NBC), and KFBT (Ind.), Asst. Marketing Director (SUPERSHOPPER MAGAZINE), Director/Co-Host (Coast Entertainment Show), Radio Promotion Director (KBCH/KCRF), and Newspapers In Education/Circulation Sales Manager (STATESMAN JOURNAL NEWSPAPER).
Bonnie has a depth of understanding that reaches further than just behind the scenes, and that thoroughness is demonstrated in the perseverance to correctly present each story with the wit and wisdom necessary to compel and captivate viewers and readers alike. An lifetime activist for just causes, she continues to strive to present facts that support Truth, Justice and Peace, as we are in the world to change the world for the better. "TJP"
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