Pubdate: Wed, 17 Feb 1999
Source: Statesman Journal (Salem, OR)
Copyright: 1999 Statesman Journal
Page: 3
Author: David Kravets


Three months after voters approved medical marijuana at the ballot box,
lawmakers and police unveiled draft legislation today that would strip some
of the measure's provisions.

The plan takes aim at the so-called "affirmative defense" for those who
exceed legal limits on how much marijuana they can possess. As written, the
law gives anybody a defense, though not necessarily a winning one, if they
are caught with marijuana.

"This allows law enforcement to take appropriate action for people
violating the law," said Rep. Kevin Mannix (R-Salem), who is promoting the
plan with the Oregon Police Chiefs Association. "I don't think there is
anything in this that takes away from the essence of the measure."

The measure's sponsors disagree, saying they fear this is the opening salvo
and that the Legislature will attempt to dismantle medical marijuana one
piece at a time.

"This is completely unnecessary," said Geoff Sugerman, a key strategist
behind the measure's passage. "This is an effort to open the door to
wholesale changes to a law the voters passed just a couple of months ago."

The proposal also would do away with the mandate that police preserve
marijuana seized from someone who claims a medical marijuana defense.

Measure 67 requires authorities to hold on to it in case a judge rules the
person should get it back. But law enforcement officials don't think they
should be in the business of keeping marijuana plants alive indefinitely.

Oregon's electorate overwhelmingly approved the use of marijuana with a
doctor's consent on Nov. 3.  Voters in Washington, Arizona, Nevada and
Alaska also approved similar measures that day.

In Oregon, the law is intended for those with cancer, AIDS, glaucoma and
other ailments that cause severe pain, nausea or seizures. They can grow up
to three mature plants and four immature plants at one time, and hold at
least one smokeable ounce for each mature plant. Qualified patients not
growing marijuana on their own can possess no more than one ounce.

Under the draft legislation, those complying with the law's limitations
could still invoke the measure as an affirmative defense if arrested, but
persons exceeding the guidelines could not. Mannix and the police chiefs
are targeting marijuana growers or dealers who may try to shield themselves
with the law.

But medical marijuana supporters argue that those accused of exceeding the
limits may have good reason for the affirmative defense: They may simply
need more marijuana to combat an ailment.

Gov. John Kitzhaber aide Bob Applegate said that facet of the
voter-approved measure is worth a second look.

"Starting from the assumption that we don't approve of the law, we would
generally welcome constructive clarification of the law," Applegate said.

As part of Measure 67, those under a doctor's care must have identification
cards issued by the Oregon Health Division. These cards have still not been

"We'll have everything up and running May 1," said Grant Higginson,
Oregon's health official. "We're still in the process of developing the
- ---
MAP posted-by: Richard Lake