Oregon Medical Marijuana Battles Offer Lessons for California

Oregon’s robust medical marijuana industry fended off the first round of post-legalization restrictions this week, but not without an all-hands-on-deck, knock-down, drag-out fight that provides a lesson for California.

Sources report that Oregon Senate Bill 844 to inspect and restrict certain commercial medical collective grows failed to pass committee Monday.

But Oregon’s medical marijuana growers will remain in the crosshairs of both law enforcement and the commercial recreational industry — mainly because medical growers leak tons of pot into the black market. Oregon enjoys the distinction of having the cheapest high-quality bud in America, at $204 per ounce, compared to $241 in the Bay Area and $346 in Washington, DC. The national average is $324. While medical patients celebrate the access, officials chafe at the leakage.

That’s a problem California also has — a state in which any adult can get a recommendation and appoint a grower as a “caregiver.” The grower can then legally grow up to six mature plants every 120 days, give the patient a free pound per year, and ship the rest out of state.

“Most experts agree that California has among the least structured systems of rules and regulations of any state with a medical marijuana law, meaning that for at least some users, a quasi-legal recreational market has existed for some time,” stated Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom’s Blue Ribbon Commission’s March progress report.

California 2016 legalizers must chose between angering the medical marijuana community with new regulations, versus gaining mainstream voters — who want to see the pot trade “controlled.”

Over in Arizona, 2016 legalization activists are already facing outright opposition from existing medical marijuana dispensaries, some of which don’t want the increased competition of new recreational businesses or homegrows. I’ve heard some California medical operators privately say they support the status quo, rather than further legalization.

You can’t blame them when, as columnist Russ Bellville notes, it is opponents of legalization largely in charge of implementing it.

“As soon as our Measure 91 was certified, the lobbyists emerged from counting their piles of money to begin subverting democracy. Lobbyists representing city councils and county commissions don’t like two key provisions on local marijuana bans and local marijuana taxes. They want the ability for a handful of councilors or commissioners to be able to ban or tax marijuana, no matter what their local constituents think or how the majority of the state voted.

Lobbyists representing commercial marijuana growers and law enforcement don’t like the current system of medical marijuana growing. They want the legislature to clamp down with restrictive limits on how many medical marijuana plants may be grown, especially within residential zones.”
For years, California’s legislature hasn’t been able to resolve the tension between the pot industry and cities and cops — let alone medical versus recreational legalizers. That unresolved tension could fracture and kill reform efforts in 2016, and lots of people stand to keep profiting from that.


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