[Vision2020] Oregon to Draw on Pot Revenue

Tom Hansen thansen at moscow.com
Sun Jun 12 07:36:44 PDT 2011

Courtesy of today's (June 12, 2011) Spokesman-Review.


Oregon to draw on pot revenue
Plan raises medical marijuana fees to pay for other health programs

GRANTS PASS, Ore. – Oregon lawmakers have decided to tap the popular
medical marijuana program for an estimated $7 million to fund other health
programs and reject a pile of bills that would have made it much tougher
for people to get a medical marijuana card.

It’s a legislative attitude adjustment that had marijuana advocates crying
foul at the idea of doubling the annual fees charged of marijuana patients
to $200. But they think they it may move Oregon closer to their goal of
bringing medical marijuana into the mainstream economy where it can be
readily available to anyone and taxed.

“It’s not good for the patients,” said Christine McGarvin, a member of the
state Medical Marijuana Advisory Committee. “I do appreciate the politics
of it.”

With federal and local law enforcement agencies decrying medical marijuana
as out of control, the Legislature saw more than a dozen bills aimed at
reining in one aspect or another of the program that went into effect in
1999. Eventually, a team of three former state troopers came up with a
bill that would have made it virtually impossible for doctors to prescribe
the drug. The bill died quietly in committee.

Rep. Andy Olson, R-Albany, a former state police lieutenant, said their
bill was dead for the year, but he plans to work on the issue through the
summer and fall and bring back a bill next year.

This past week a Ways and Means subcommittee approved doubling the $100
annual fee for medical marijuana patients and imposing a new $200 fee on
growers who are not already patients. The $20 discount for poor people
receiving food stamps and state medical coverage would be eliminated and
only made available to people on Social Security. The $7 million
raised would go to other programs within the cash-strapped Oregon Health
Authority, including clean water, emergency medical care and school health

If the measure gains full approval as part of the budget, the fee
increases would go into effect July 1.

Rep. Tim Freeman, R-Roseburg, said he wouldn’t call the medical marijuana
program a cash cow, but he acknowledged that the additional revenue would
be used to subsidize unrelated services.

Freeman said Gov. John Kitzhaber’s recommended budget left a large hole in
public health funding. The Oregon Health Authority had already planned to
increase fees in the medical marijuana program but decided to hike them
even higher to help fill the budget gap.

The fee increases came out of the governor’s direction that some health
programs that received general fund revenue in the past would have to find
fee revenue instead, said Barry Kast, interim director of the Office of
Community Health, which includes the Oregon Medical Marijuana Program.

As of April, nearly 40,000 Oregonians held patient cards at $100 apiece,
raising about $4 million a year. Separate legislation would charge
patients $10 to replace a lost card.

Medical marijuana advocates decry the idea of a fee increase as an unfair
tax on some of Oregon’s poorest citizens.

“We managed to escape, I thought, without any changes to the program,”
said Bob Wolfe, of the Oregon Marijuana Policy Initiative. “All of a
sudden, out of nowhere, we get this stealth tax on the poorest people in

But Paul Stanford, who owns a chain of medical marijuana clinics and is
gathering signatures for a marijuana legalization initiative for the 2012
ballot, said the budget measure bodes well for eventual legalization of
marijuana. He estimated that taxing it could raise $150 million a year.

Morgan Fox, communications manager for the Marijuana Policy Project in
Washington, D.C., said Oregon was following in the footsteps of states
like Colorado and Vermont, which have been gradually making medical
marijuana more accessible and putting it under more state control.

“If we are willing to realize it is legitimate to tax patients to fund
social programs, we should be willing to see it is legitimate enough to
open it up as an industry.”


Seeya round town, Moscow,

Tom Hansen
Moscow, Idaho

"The Pessimist complains about the wind, the Optimist expects it to change
and the Realist adjusts his sails."

- Author Unknown

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