Pubdate: Fri, 08 Oct 2010
Source: Ashland Daily Tidings (OR)
Copyright: 2010 Ashland Daily Tidings
Author: Chris Conrad
Bookmark: (Measure 74)


Forum at SOU focused on pros and cons of state's bill on marijuana

A packed room in Southern Oregon University's Stevenson Union was
treated to a lively back-and-forth Thursday between Measure 74
proponents and law enforcement during a forum on November's medical
marijuana ballot measures in Oregon and California.

The forum was sponsored by the Mail Tribune and Jefferson Public Radio
and moderated by the Jefferson Exchange's Geoffrey Riley and Mail
Tribune editor Bob Hunter and reporter Damian Mann.

"Judging by the turnout this is an issue of interest," Riley said as
he surveyed the nearly full house prior to directing questions to the

The panelists included Sgt. Erik Fisher of the Oregon State Police
Drug Enforcement Program; Portland attorney Leland Berger, who
assisted in writing the Oregon Medical Marijuana Act; Deputy Chief Tim
George of the Medford Police Department; and Leslie Wilde, who runs
the Green Collar Compassionate Collective dispensary in Dunsmuir, Calif.

George led off by describing how busy local cops are with marijuana
cases during harvest season. George noted that he was not speaking for
the Medford Police Department but as a private citizen and his
opinions did not represent the department's.

"Marijuana laws are consuming police right now," George

George and Fisher said they have no issue with those who follow the
laws related to production and consumption of medical marijuana, but
those who are using the program to funnel marijuana into the black
market take up a lot of police time.

Berger countered with a pointed rebuke, saying, "I thought we would
start a little more truthful here."

He went on to argue that the problem was not with medical
marijuana-related gardens but the illegal large-scale farms containing
thousands of plants on public forest land.

Berger acknowledged that some in the program have benefited illegally
from selling marijuana meant for card-holding patients. He claims
Measure 74 would cut into illegal profits by providing an increased
incentive for caregivers to grow for regulated dispensaries that will
dole out marijuana to cardholders.

"Measure 74 will make a regulated supply system so people won't have
to go on the black market to buy medicine," Berger said. "It's a
surprise that law enforcement does not support this as it takes a bite
out of crime."

Wilde said California's dispensary system will differ from Oregon's
should Measure 74 pass.

"In California, every dispensary regulates itself and runs the way it
wants to," she said.

Wilde has some reservations about Measure 74, saying it might have too
much regulation embedded in its language. If a dispensary makes a
mistake and has one or two plants over the limit, it could cause problems.

"The restrictions might bring in the police because they have a set
amount of plants to look for when they enter a garden or dispensary,"
Wilde said. "It gives the police a foot in the door and could keep
patients from getting medicine if there's a delay."

Wilde hopes the restrictions loosen up over time and the dispensaries
are left to police themselves.

Fisher said the increase in the number of people added to the medical
marijuana program through Measure 74 will make it harder to enforce
all marijuana laws. Under the proposed measure, cards will be given to
those who work in the dispensary.

"It doesn't give us any additional tools to work with," Fisher said.
"For instance, it won't help us to know who owns a grow site. It will
muddy the waters even more."

Fisher said police do not receive lists of legal gardens and only can
learn the status of a garden by contacting officials with the Oregon
Medical Marijuana Program and giving them the name of a person
suspected of growing illegally.

"They then give us a simple yes or no if the garden is legal," Fisher

When asked why the OMMP has grown so rapidly, Berger said proponents
have done a good job of educating the public of the benefits of
medical marijuana.

The positive economic impact of taxing medical marijuana remains up in
the air, Berger said.

"The voter's pamphlet said the economic forecast is between three and
20 million in revenue," Berger said. "It's hard to guess what it will

When asked about compensation for providers and dispensaries, Berger
said that making money should not be the goal of participating in the

"It's about giving safe access to medicine for patients and not making
millionaires," Berger said.

Fisher believes that it is difficult for Measure 74 proponents and law
enforcement to see eye-to-eye on the issue because they are coming
from very different points of view. Police only deal with those who
take advantage of the program for personal gain, but that might only
represent a small proportion of those who participate in the OMMP.

The panel seemed to agree with his point. 
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MAP posted-by: Richard Lake