Pubdate: Sun, 17 Jan 2010
Source: Mail Tribune, The (Medford, OR)
Copyright: 2010 The Mail Tribune
Note: Only prints LTEs from within it's circulation area
Author: Chris Conrad, Mail Tribune


Schoen Says Legal Medical Pot Is Fine, but Illegal Activity Is
'Destroying Fabric' Of Community

Medford police Chief Randy Schoen took some heat last week from
medical marijuana proponents across the state when he criticized
certain aspects of the program in the department's newsletter.

Schoen said he misspoke in one portion of the newsletter, in which he
suggested marijuana growth within the city is "destroying the safety,
the fabric and the livability of our neighborhoods."

"What I meant to say was that growing marijuana criminally is
affecting livability in Medford," Schoen said.

The chief said the department has no issue with people who have
legally attained a medical marijuana card through the Oregon Medical
Marijuana Program and those who are registered caregivers who grow for
card holders.

"We are not in the business of taking medicine away from sick people,"
Schoen said. "Those people who abide by the letter of the law do not
hear from us."

Schoen argues that the language written into the OMMP opens the door
to care givers growing much more marijuana than needed. He said this
has led to a boom in marijuana sales to non-card holders who purchase
their pot from registered growers.

"A lot of people who are getting marijuana in Medford are buying it
from care givers who are using the program to make a profit rather
than simply provide medical marijuana for card holders," Schoen said.

Rita Sullivan, executive director of OnTrack, an addiction and
recovery center based in Medford, said her agency has heard a large
number of testimonials from patients saying they have bought marijuana
from OMMP care givers.

"It is clear to us that there needs to be more regulation on how
medicinal marijuana is handled in Oregon," Sullivan said. "We have
heard how easy it is to get marijuana illegally through medicinal growers."

Jackson County ranks third in the state for registered marijuana card
holders, with 2,931.

Oregon law limits medical marijuana growers to six mature plants, 18
seedlings and 24 ounces of usable marijuana per patient at any one
time. "Usable" refers to dried leaves and flowers with medicinal value.

Schoen would like to see the number of mature plants a card holder is
allowed to possess cut down to two and the amount of usable pot one
can have slashed to 1.5 ounces. There also should be a limit to how
much pot can be possessed over a specific time period, he said.

Medford Deputy Chief Tim George points to recent busts across the
state that involve OMMP care givers.

In December, Oregon State Police seized 225 pounds of pot from people
who allegedly grew and distributed more than is legally allowed under
the OMMP.

"We want medical marijuana to be treated like any other pharmaceutical
drug," George said. "You are not allowed to have an endless supply of,
say, Vicodin, so then why should you have an endless supply of
marijuana. It should be put under the supervision of the Oregon
Pharmacy Board."

However, OMMP supporters such as Christine McGarvin argue police
departments are using the examples of a few growers who defy the law
to condemn the entire program.

"These police departments are using scare tactics to attack the OMMP,"
McGarvin said. "They cannot substantiate their claims large numbers of
providers are breaking the law. They are using the language of the
failed drug war to spread fear."

McGarvin criticized Schoen's request for Medford citizens to report
all marijuana gardens they see within the city.

Schoen believes by reporting all the gardens, officers will have a
better idea of which ones are legal and which ones are outside the
boundaries of the OMMP.

"As of right now, we don't know who is a provider unless we come
across a grow and call it in to the OMMP," Schoen said. "If a grow is
reported, we can go check it out and make a note of it."

McGarvin said she wonders why the department would want to use
resources to investigate legal marijuana gardens.

"Shouldn't the police be using taxpayer money to deal with
methamphetamine and other drugs that are dangerous?" she said.

Schoen said he does not want to frame the debate over whether medical
marijuana serves a medical purpose.

"We do not question whether someone gets relief from pain when using
medical marijuana," Schoen said. "We are concerned with those who
abuse the program to make money." 
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