Dist. 12
Pubdate: Mon, 11 Sep 2000
Source: Register-Guard, The (OR)
Copyright: 2000 The Register-Guard
Contact:  PO Box 10188, Eugene, OR 97440-2188
Website: http://www.registerguard.com/
Author: Matt Cooper


Passing medical marijuana at the ballot box was one thing. Getting enough of
your own medical-quality supply is quite another.

A nonprofit medical marijuana advocacy group wants the Legislature to fix
that problem by amending the Oregon Medical Marijuana Act, which voters
approved in 1998.

The measure makes it legal to use marijuana for treatment of cancer,
glaucoma, HIV or AIDS, cachexia (bodily emaciation), severe pain or nausea,
and seizures that are symptoms caused by disease. Treatment for Alzheimer's
patients who are combative or agitated has been added to the list.

The Portland-based Stormy Ray Foundation will host private, patient-driven
discussions with agencies and officials in October, November and December.
Ray, a chief petitioner for the original measure, uses marijuana to control
spasms and pain caused by multiple sclerosis.

Based on those discussions, Ray said state Rep. Joann Bowman, D-Portland,
will introduce a bill in January that would set up a state-sanctioned
referral and distribution system that would speed medical-grade marijuana to
patients in a timely manner. Bowman couldn't be reached Friday for comment
on the bill.

In an interview last week in Eugene, Ray urged marijuana users to contact
their state representatives if they have issues or concerns about the
implementation of the Oregon Medical Marijuana Act. "We need the patients to
help us identify the issues so that a bill will address them properly," she

Ray had planned to follow up the marijuana act with an initiative on the
Nov. 7 general election ballot to help get the drug to patients, but funding
and organizational problems prevented the foundation from filing its measure
by the May deadline.

Kelly Paige, medical marijuana program manager for the state Health
Division, said the state's 932 card-carrying medical marijuana users mostly
complain about not being able to grow enough quality marijuana.

The state's projected case load of users has almost doubled in 18 months and
Paige said she receives 10 requests a day for more information about the

Oregon's rainy weather forces growers indoors, where they can't stockpile
the product and are limited to maintaining three mature plants and
cultivating no more than three ounces of marijuana at one time.

"If you're a patient and you're ill," Paige said, "these are not the easiest
plants in the world to cultivate."

Without insurance coverage, it's also expensive, especially for people too
sick to work. The registration card costs $150 annually while lights and
other growing equipment can cost $300 to $500.

Law enforcement has its own problems with the act. Marijuana investigations
are stalled while officers from the state police, local narcotics teams and
sheriff's offices await Paige's confirmation of legitimate marijuana

"She's only one person. It's kind of a difficult situation," said Sgt. Larry
Welty, a member of the state police drug enforcement section. "Our only way
to contact them is Monday through Friday, 8 to 5. What resource does an
officer have who works swing shift?"

Connecting patient information to a law enforcement data system would allow
officers to determine whether a grower is legal or not, Welty said. He also
wants the law to clearly define the legal amount a patient may possess, to
foil those who would grow it and sell it.

The current legal amount and the limit on plants - seven at any one
location, including three mature and four immature - was called vague by the
state attorney general's office, Welty said.

Paige suspects that many of the problems surrounding the medical marijuana
act would disappear if the federal government removed the drug from criminal
status. Like heroin and LSD, marijuana is deemed by the government to have
no medicinal value.

California passed its medical marijuana act in 1996 and Oregon, Alaska,
Washington, Maine, Hawaii and Washington, D.C., have also legalized it for
medicinal use. Colorado will vote on an initiative this year, Paige said.

It's uncertain whether the state actions will eventually elevate marijuana
to prescription drug status.

If it does, Paige joked, she'll be out of a job and marijuana patients'
problems in obtaining it will be history.


To voice your problems acquiring medical marijuana, call the Stormy Ray
Foundation at (877) 600-6767 or write to the foundation at P.O. Box 220086,
Portland, OR 97269.

To receive an application packet for the Oregon Medical Marijuana Act, visit
www.ohd.hr.state.or.us/hclc/mm on the World Wide Web or contact Kelly Paige,
medical marijuana program manager, at the state Health Division, 800 N.E.
Oregon St., Suite 640, Portland, OR 97232. Or call (503) 731-8310.
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MAP posted-by: Don Beck