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Pro-Cannabis Supporters Rally for Medical Marijuana Rights in OregonBonnie King Salem-News.com
Medical marijuana activists rallied at the Capitol against proposed 'restrictive' legislation
(SALEM, Ore.) - About 75 people stood outside Oregon’s capitol last Wednesday in the freezing cold, demanding their health rights are respected by the legislature.
Several bills are up for discussion in front of Oregon’s legislature regarding the 1998 law which allows use of medicinal marijuana.
While the House Bill 2982 was being heard before the House Judiciary Committee inside the capitol, dozens of patients braved the winter weather and rallied against the potential changes in the OMMP.
“We will turn out in force for every public hearing of every bill we strongly oppose,” said Robert Wolfe, director of the Oregon Marijuana Policy Initiative (OMPI), a coalition of pro-medical-marijuana interest groups.
Advocacy groups in attendance were Oregon Green Free, Salem NORML, Voter Power, Mothers Against Misuse and Abuse (MAMA), Medical Cannabis Research, The Hemp and Cannabis Foundation (THCF), Patient Grower Network, and the Mercy Center.
Regarding HB 2981, Wolfe said, "Essentially this bill would seek to punish citizens who have committed a past felony, but have also served their time and are now sick, or perhaps dying. It's a form of re-punishment and re-criminalization."
Rep. Mike Schauffler, a Democrat from Happy Valley, Oregon showed his disregard for Oregon doctors when he said, “I support medical marijuana for people suffering, but it has been wildly abused. There are doctors who hand out hundreds of cards to people who don’t need them.”
The Representative was not just implying, but stated directly that he believes doctors are willing to put their careers and reputations on the line to lie about a patient’s conditions.
The insult was heard loud and clear by nearly 4,000 Oregon doctors whom have signed applications for patients, the 50,000 patients and caregivers, and the millions of Oregon voters who passed the Oregon Medical Marijuana Act.
There is no "us against them" situation however.
All Oregonians are affected by changes to the OMMA. All have an interest, an investment in its success. As is the case with any large cause, miscommunication and self-motivated interests are its enemy. In a management forum, this is to be expected, and prevented. In a large scale community effort however, this continuity is much more difficult to attain, and maintain.
Before the bills hit the legislature, controversy was already showing it's antagonistic head. There is a small faction of the cannabis community that, though they profess to have the best intentions of the medical patients at heart, regularly join forces to put forth legislation that is not a reflection of the majority of those very patients.
The controversial cooperative bill (HB 3046) was introduced on the first day of the Legislature, February 1st, written by Stormy Ray. Ray is well known for being one of the co-chief petitioners of the Oregon Medical Marijuana Act in 1998.
Stormy Ray suffers from multiple sclerosis, and is wheelchair-bound. She uses cannabis medicinally, and has formed a foundation to share her message with others. Since then, her support of measures that divide the cannabis community has kept her in the spotlight.
“Stormy has spent very little time coordinating with the rest of the medical marijuana patient community, and ironically, she has become highly focused on what law enforcement wants, instead of what the patients need. Both times that a dispensary measure has made the ballot, Stormy has been very vocal in her opposition,” wrote Jennifer Alexander, pro-cannabis activist.
“Stormy said ‘Patients have done a phenomenal job of managing the system to rise above their own illnesses to work together.’ And yet, under her proposed cooperative bill, she has removed the potential for patients to work together.”
It is this kind of unrest stemming from questionable motivations and undefined unified goals that keeps cannabis patients wary of all legislation. And so, they show up en masse to protect themselves, and to make themselves heard by the elected officials inside the Capitol doors.
10 House bills and 5 Senate bills (See LEFT) seeking new restrictions to the state’s medical marijuana law have been proposed since the start of the legislative session.
Some of the bills present ideas that pro-cannabis activists consider as “nuisance bills”, created to waste time and taxpayers dollars. Ideas go from reducing the amount of marijuana a cardholder can possess to changing the list of conditions for which medical marijuana can be ‘prescribed’ (SB 777 and HB 3202).
Others set up cooperatives as the only legal points of distribution of legal medical marijuana (HB 3046), make it a Class A felony for unlawful manufacture of marijuana on public land (SB 327), and prohibit the operation of a marijuana grow site within 2,500 feet of school or place of worship (HB 2994), and (HB 2982) would require criminal background checks on all existing medical-marijuana cardholders, a number that now exceeds 58,000, according to state statistics.
“We hope our show of force will convince legislators to enter into a reasonable discussion with us and table some of these bills,” said Robert Wolfe, OMPI.
After the hearings, co-chairs will decide if each bill should be sent to a work session for amendment discussions so any “changes” would not be implemented for some time, even if they passed.
Some legislators contend that the current requirements to use marijuana medicinally is “lax”, and that it is extremely easy to become a permit holder- proving them to be uninformed regarding the multiple steps would-be patients comply with in order to be accepted by the state run program.
Those same people say that patients are “angry about program misuse”, though the majority of the arguments come from non-cannabis users and this alleged anger has not been verified by any legitimate resource.
On the other hand, Sen. Floyd Prozanski, D-Eugene, said lawmakers may be driven more by their political circumstances than by expertise in medicine or pain treatment and it should be left to doctors and scientists to decide who best benefits from medicinal cannabis.
“We all have certain biases when it comes to marijuana,” he said. “And there are legislators with personal and built-in biases about recreational marijuana use, and they treat medical uses of marijuana in the same way. They are two different animals.”
True that they are different issues, but the connection between the two is undeniable. Causing problems for legal medical marijuana patients will inevitably affect recreational users as well, which may be the motivation in the first place.
For millions of like-minded Americans however, ending prohibition of cannabis on a federal level is the ultimate goal, a change that would create a global domino effect of peace and tolerance.
And that-- seems to be the real objection.
For more Cannabis-related stories and factual information, go to: Cannabis De-Classified
Publisher Bonnie King has been with Salem-News.com since August '04. 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", 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 NIE/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.
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