OR: Senate OKs Bill Clarifying Medical Pot

Discussion in 'Marijuana Legalization' started by IndianaToker, Jul 28, 2005.

  1. By Tim Christie, The Register-Guard
    Source: Register-Guard

    Oregon -- Medical marijuana cardholders would be allowed to possess up to 1 1/2 pounds of dried marijuana and six mature plants under a bill that won unanimous support Wednesday in the Oregon Senate. The legislation, Senate Bill 1085, makes a series of changes intended to clarify ambiguous sections of Oregon's voter-approved medical marijuana law that took effect in 1998.

    The bill "provides the clear, bright lines that law enforcement needs to enforce the law fairly, without infringement on the rights of those who legitimately use the product," said Sen. Bill Morrisette, D-Springfield, the bill's chief sponsor.

    The bill's other main backer, Sen. Jeff Kruse, R-Roseburg, said the bill could not have moved forward without the work and support of both law enforcement officials and advocates for users of marijuana.

    To lawmakers who oppose medical marijuana in principle, Kruse said the question isn't whether to keep the law, given its popular support, but "how to make it work better for all involved. This bill does that."

    The bill passed on a 30-0 vote and now goes to the House.

    Four major law enforcement organizations representing police chiefs, sheriffs, district attorneys and the Oregon State Police supported the bill because it provides better guidance for officers confronted with sometimes ambiguous issues surrounding the law.

    Lack of clarity in the existing law means law officers sometimes "can get into situations where they're not sure how to proceed," said Kevin Campbell, executive director of the Oregon Association Chiefs of Police. "The reason we like the bill is we think it clears up some of the ambiguity. It gives officers more solid ground to stand on."

    Many patient advocates support the bill, but there is some division. For instance, Oregon NORML (National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws) is backing the bill as a "great enhancement" for patients, said Madeline Martinez, the group's executive director.

    Martinez said she likes that the bill defines a marijuana plant - anything over 12 inches high or 12 inches wide - so there's no confusing seedlings or cuttings with mature plants.

    And the increase in the number of mature plants and amount of dried marijuana that cardholders are permitted to possess would be a major improvement to the law, she said.

    Current law permits cardholders and caregivers - people who grow marijuana for cardholders who can't or don't want to grow their own - to grow three mature and four immature plants and to possess up to three ounces of dried marijuana. The legislation lets cardholders grow up to six mature plants and 18 seedlings and possess 24 ounces of dried marijuana.

    To be allowed to possess and grow that much would relieve a lot of stress for cardholders, she said.

    But in exchange for that provision, law enforcement got something important to them: elimination of the "affirmative defense" for cardholders who are found to be growing or possessing more marijuana than permitted under the law. Currently, in that situation, a patient can argue in court that having more marijuana than permitted is a medical necessity and therefore permissible.

    That change is one of the reasons that Leland Berger, a Portland attorney who helped draft the original law and defends medical marijuana patients, opposes the Senate legislation.

    "It's a really close call whether to support or oppose this legislation," he said. "I take the position that it's important not to leave anyone behind. This compromise legislation leaves people and situations behind, and that's how come I'm opposed to it."

    Berger contends that the increased limits are inadequate, particularly for outdoor growers who have only one crop a year. And he doesn't like a provision that restricts caregivers to grow for no more than four patients. The restrictions will result in the diminution of supply for patients, he said.

    The bill also:

    • Permits patients to reimburse caregivers for their expenses, such as supplies and utilities, associated with growing.

    • Requires growers to return all marijuana and a grow-site card when they stop growing for a patient.

    • Requires state health officials to establishe a system that will allow police to verify a person is a cardholder at any hour of the day.

    • Requires state officials to issue grow-site cards to qualified persons, and for those cards to be displayed at all times at grow sites.

    • Calls for growers who are convicted of drug offenses to have their cards revoked for five years after a first offense and for good after a second offense.

    Register-Guard reporter David Steves in Salem contributed to this report.

    Source: Register-Guard, The (OR)
    Author: Tim Christie, The Register-Guard
    Published: July 21, 2005
    Copyright: 2005 The Register-Guard
    Contact: rgletters@guardnet.com
    Website: http://www.registerguard.com/
    Link to article: http://www.cannabisnews.com/news/thread20984.shtml
     
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