Measure 74 (medical marijuana) only adds confusion to existing law

Written by John Bishop, Curry County Sheriff October 20, 2010 05:00 am

I was asked if I would be interested in writing a piece regarding Measure 74 (medical marijuana dispensaries) and, since I am a glutton for punishment, I said yes. As you will see, my reasons against it aren’t the reasons you might think.

Here are just some of the issues with the current law and Measure 74:

Twelve years ago, voters were initially told “medical marijuana” was going to be a program for the sick and dying (cancer/glaucoma patients), but currently less than 4 percent of the card holders are using medical marijuana for cancer, and more than 88 percent are listed for common pain. In this county alone, we have 18 and 20 year olds getting marijuana cards for chronic pain.

While Measure 74 states distribution centers have to be at least a quarter-mile from schools, it doesn’t say anything about the (marijuana) grow sites, which can be located next to libraries, churches, youth clubs, swimming pools, day cares and parks.

This measure allows each center and grow site to possess 24 plants and 96 ounces (5.9 pounds) of dried marijuana. If everyone was given the maximum allowed marijuana according to Measure 74, it would take thousands of distribution centers and grow sites around the state of Oregon to provide that amount just for the current 36,380 card holders.

The smell of marijuana in growers’ backyards is starting disputes in neighborhoods. Home burglaries and robberies are also happening at these locations. We are already handling these types of calls, and it is predicted they will worsen in the future.

The centers’ directors/employees must be Oregon residents, but there is no previous or duration of residency required. In one day, you can move to Oregon and start in the business.

Felony crimes such as violence or theft within the last five years bars participation in a distribution center, however, drug-related felonies are not mentioned. This could allow a person with drug-related felony convictions to operate the grow site or center.

Measure 74 is so poorly written, it does not address any problems with the current medical marijuana program. Measure 74 will not infringe on a cardholder’s ability to produce their own marijuana, or designate a person responsible for the marijuana grow site. In-home growers and existing caregiver growers will continue to go unregulated and unchecked, continuing to create problems for law enforcement and diverting resources that must deal with the existing abuses. (It should be noted that not one grow site the Sheriff’s Office has been advised of, or located this year, has been in compliance with the current law.)

The current medical marijuana program is out of control. This measure does nothing to help fix these issues, and only adds more ambiguity to the problem. Law enforcement and the Department of Human Services do not have the resources or the ability to regulate the current program, let alone a new, more complicated and ambiguous problem.

The FDA states that “There is sound evidence that smoked marijuana is harmful, and there has been no sound scientific studies supporting medical use of marijuana for treatment in the United States.”

The Drug Enforcement Administration states the following: “Medical marijuana already exists. It’s called Marinol. As a pharmaceutical product, Marinol is widely available through prescription and comes in a pill form and is currently being studied for other delivery methods such as an inhaler or patch. Smoked marijuana has over 400 different chemicals, including most of the hazardous chemicals found in tobacco smoke. There is four times the tar in a marijuana cigarette than a tobacco cigarette. Marinol has been studied and approved by the medical community and the FDA. There are no FDA approved medications that are smoked.”

Now, the medical advantage can be argued, but here is an example: Morphine has proven to have a medical value as a drug, but the FDA does not endorse the smoking of opium or heroin. Instead, scientists have extracted active ingredients from opium, which are sold as pharmaceutical products like morphine, codeine, hydrocodone, or oxycodone. In a similar vein, the FDA has not approved smoking marijuana for medical purposes, but has approved the active ingredient — THC — in the form of Marinol.

Both candidates for Oregon Governor — Mr. Kitzhaber and Mr. Dudley — are against the measure, and both have stated Measure 74 lacks clarity and doesn’t fix current problems with the program. 

For law enforcement to be able do its job, we need boundaries set so we know if and when a law has been broken. The individuals who truly want medical marijuana for their personal use want these same type of boundaries.

We also need the laws to be consistent and not political. Law enforcement is sworn to uphold the U.S. Constitution and its laws, in addition to the state’s Constitution and its laws. When these two laws conflict, it leaves law enforcement in a no-win situation. Throw politics into it and it is no wonder why the current program is out of control.

We also have a problem with what DHS, which manages the medical marijuana program, can tell law enforcement, which has the job of enforcing the law. This needs to change so both agencies can communicate efficiently and effectively with each other. This is currently not happening, due to the way the current law is written.

Whether you are “for” or “against” medical marijuana is only one issue. How the law is written and carried out is another.

Bottom line: Measure 74 is a badly-written measure and needs a lot of work. Let’s fix the current law, and problems with medical marijuana, before adding a new law that creates more problems and ambiguity regarding this crucial issue.