Pubdate: Mon, 04 Oct 2010
Source: Mail Tribune, The (Medford, OR)
Copyright: 2010 The Mail Tribune
Note: Only prints LTEs from within it's circulation area, 200 word count limit
Author: Paul Fattig


Some Feel Measure Doesn't Go Far Enough, While Others Are Totally Against It

Medical marijuana grower James Bowman intends to vote for Measure 74,
but he may be holding his nose when he casts his ballot.

"I support legalization of cannabis," stressed the Ruch area resident.
"Measure 74 is too compromising. I'll vote for it, but I see this as
only a small step. It doesn't go far enough."

While Bowman agrees with measure backers -- and opponents -- that
Oregon's 1998 medical marijuana law needs improvement, he believes
Measure 74 on the Nov. 2 ballot is not the answer.

For instance, the measure's fees -- he refers to them as taxes -- are
too high for those who would provide the legal pot, he said.

The measure would require marijuana producers and dispensaries to pay
a 10 percent fee on all income. It also would require them to pay an
annual licensing fee of $1,000 and $2,000, respectively.

"I don't agree with the over-taxation and regulation on the
producers," Bowman said. "I would be glad to pay 10 percent of my
personal income. But it hinders our business if the tax is 10 percent
of the gross revenue."

"That makes it hard to do the normal things a business would do. I
want to pay the same as my neighbors who grow wine grapes. We should
be taxed like any other business."

Others concerned about the measure fear it will increase drug abuse
problems and challenges for law enforcement agencies to keep
communities safe.

They also worry that allowing a state agency to set many of the
guidelines after the measure is approved will lead to consequences not
intended by voters.

"It opens up a big can of worms," said Medford resident Victor
Gonzales, 45, noting he had problems with marijuana and other drugs as
a younger man, a problem that led to his incarceration.

"Where would they put them?" he asked of the proposed medical
marijuana dispensaries. "The venue is real important. You don't want
them near school kids. Maybe they could be at drug stores."

Gonzales, who was working in scrap metals until he injured his back,
said he didn't know how he would vote on the measure.

"It would have to be monitored very closely," he said. "Right now, you
have people with cards who sell it illegally. I'm all for drugs for
people with medical problems but not for illegal activity."

Jana Wolfgang, owner of Portland-based Wolfgang Associates, a small
business that helps employers manage drug-testing programs, is opposed
to the measure. She is co-chairwoman of the Portland Employer
Drug-Free Initiative.

She will tell you that Oregon's marijuana use by adults already is 50
percent higher than the national average, and that passage of the
measure would serve to undermine employer efforts to reduce substance
abuse in the workplace.

"Marijuana can impair people's performance on the job," she said,
noting that most of her clients are in the construction industry.
"Anything that potentially increases the use of marijuana by employees
concerns me a lot."

A citizen group known as Oregonians Against Legalization of Marijuana
is adamantly opposed to the measure based primarily on the premise it
is another step toward marijuana legalization.

Group founder Shirley Morgan of Welches did not return several
telephone calls left by the Mail Tribune, but she spelled out her
concerns to the Secretary of State's Office in the form of a
submission to the fall voters' pamphlet.

She believes Measure 74 would allow cardholders to bypass the maximum
amount of pot allowed by going to different dispensaries and growing
it at home. She also is concerned that dispensaries would be allowed
near places such as libraries, churches, parks and day-care centers.

And she says the measure would result in thousands of dispensaries
across the state.

"Measure 74 is costly and lacks clarity on regulation, operation and
enforcement," she wrote.

Opposition also has sprung up from the Oregon District Attorneys
Association, the Oregon State Sheriffs Association and the Oregon
Association Chiefs of Police.

As the vote on the measure approaches, Bowman, 50, is beginning to
harvest his legal pot crop near Ruch. He is a medical marijuana
cardholder, a legal grower and a caregiver. As a grower, he can grow
for four patients, including himself. As a patient, he can grow for
himself or have a legal grower do it.

However, as a caregiver who lives at the grow site, he can "care" for
an unlimited number of patients in what law enforcement officials
refer to as the "caregiver loophole," he explained. His grow site
provides for about 70 patients.

Legally, he can have up to 350 budding plants at one time, but his
site always contains about 100 fewer plants than the legal limit to
err on the side of caution, he said.

"What 74 will do is take away the incentive for the farmer -- the
producers -- to have a relationship with the patient," he said.
"That's how our farm has made the program we have now work for us.

"We grow for the individual patient," he added. "We are more
responsive to their needs because of that. But 74 will make it
impossible to keep doing it that way. We will have to adapt to their
model if it passes."

He firmly believes that if the state were to adopt full cannabis
legalization for adults, Oregon would no longer be in an economic quagmire.

"They are really missing out on all that revenue," he said, noting it
could help pay for such services as police and fire protection. "In
the Rogue Valley area, we can experience the (marijuana) economy to
its fullest. Thousands of jobs would be created overnight. But if it
is kept only as medicinal, that limits its potential, both
economically and socially."

Although 14 states have medical marijuana programs, Oregon, along with
Northern California, produces the best pot, he said.

"But politicians are reluctant to take suggestions from a grower," he
said, noting he has invited several to his property to learn firsthand
about the issue. None have taken him up on the offer, he noted.

"Right now, we subsidize medicinal marijuana for free," he said. "I'm
a big supporter of the medical marijuana program but in the 12 years
(since it was enacted) they haven't made it legal to pay for our
labor. I'm just hoping Measure 74 won't lead us down the wrong road
and hinder legalization."  
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