Oregon’s Legislators Negotiate Medical Marijuana Bill

One of the biggest struggles in the marijuana industry is reigning in the black market because some consumers are still flocking to street level dealers. Why? Because black market marijuana is much cheaper than legal marijuana; and with less police scrutiny, dealers have an incentive to stay in business.

In an attempt to stay ahead of the regulatory curve, Oregon’s legislators have taken it upon themselves to reform the state’s medical marijuana market before its recreational market becomes active on July 1, 2015. The legislature is currently mulling over SB 844, a bill meant to cut down on the amount of medical marijuana hitting the black market.

“It’s no secret that medical marijuana [from Oregon] is appearing all over the U.S. in the illegal market,” bill sponsor Sen. Ginny Burdick told The Oregonian.

SB 844 would limit medical marijuana growers to 48 plants in rural areas and 12 in urban areas. For those that had grow sites prior to January 1, 2015, that number would be doubled to 96 plants in rural areas and 24 in urban areas.

The Oregon Health Authority and Oregon Liquor Control Commission would also have authority to inspect grow sites, processing facilities and dispensaries to ensure compliance. However, personal grow sites would not be subject to inspection.

Oddly enough, one provision missing from SB 844 is any seed-to-sale tracking requirement. Under the proposed legislation, growers would be required to self-report their on-hand inventory every month and record all of their transactions. In other words, growers would be held to the honor system.

What is even more surprising is that lawmakers actually rejected seed-to-sale tracking in favor of a self-reporting system. Understandably, no system is perfect, but it seems naïve to think that a self-reported system would do anything to increase transparency and accountability. Instead, it seems that lawmakers are more interested in controlling the supply than actually tracking it.

Nervous medical marijuana patients can rest easy for the moment, because currently the committee tasked with hammering out the details to this proposed legislation, and the implementation of recreational marijuana, are at an impasse over the measure.

“It’s time for action,” Burdick told the committee. “We have agreement on 92 pages of the bill. We have disagreement on three pages. It would be unfortunate for it to fall apart over that.” Perhaps Burdick is right, but then again, the devil is always in the details.

Obviously, there is a great need to properly regulate Oregon’s medical marijuana industry. However, in lieu of adequate tracking, the legislature’s attempts seem ham-fisted and misguided. Controlling the supply of marijuana means nothing if you rely on those you regulate to self report.

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