The Case for Retaining and Improving the Oregon Medical Marijuana Program
The Oregon Medical Marijuana Program (OMMP) has become an integral part of health care for some 70,000 Oregonians. It provides a vital service to many who have exhausted all other sources for relief from chronic pain, cancer and other debilitating conditions, or who have found its benefits superior to pharmaceutical medications. The OMMP has also provided protection from criminal prosecution for its patients and established itself as one of the best medical marijuana programs in the country. The industry serving medical marijuana patients provides jobs for thousands of Oregonians in clinics, dispensaries and supporting businesses.
In November 2014, voters passed Measure 91, an initiative that legalized and regulated the responsible adult use of marijuana for recreational purposes. This initiative expressly stated that “the Act may not be construed to affect or amend the Oregon Medical Marijuana Act” and “[d]o not affect or amend in any way the functions, duties or powers of the Oregon Health Authority under the Oregon Medical Marijuana Act.” Despite these provisions, there has been discussion in the media, and by certain legislators, regarding rolling medical marijuana into Measure 91 regulation, as well as comments stating or implying that the OMMP was just a sham or a “foot in the door” for legalization and is now unnecessary.
The urge to begin the process of ending a program long considered by some legislators to be problematic is understandable, but there should be no rush to diminish a program that has benefited so many Oregonians for so long. We believe that the OMMP can and should continue to exist, despite implementation of an adult use program—albeit with some improvements that will make both programs more effective.
That being said, however, there remains a clear and distinct difference between marijuana for personal use and marijuana for medical use. For too many years, state administrators, elected officials and even some in the marijuana community itself have conflated the two.
So how do we have a debate without a true understanding of the difference? And how do we make that distinction when discussing and formulating policy?
Compassionate Oregon hopes legislators will find the information contained in this report helpful in answering these questions. We hope legislators look to this paper for guidance as the policy debate in Oregon moves toward implementation of Measure 91 and the consequences its impact could have on the OMMP.