On Wednesday, March 16, 2011, proponents for medical marijuana testified before the Senate Health Care, Human Services and Rural Health Policy Committee in opposition to Senate Bill 777, which is summarized as follows:
Modifies list of debilitating medical conditions for which medical marijuana is available and removes power of Oregon Health Authority to add other debilitating medical conditions to list. Requires registry identification cardholder to provide updated documentation from physician about debilitating medical condition to authority every six months.
All participants in the hearing, including the bill’s sponsors, seemed confused on the intent of SB 777; the Chair of the Committee, Senator Monnes Anderson (who is also listed as a co-sponsor of the bill), concluded the hearing by stating that the bill needed “major amendments, in my eyes” in order for it to pass. No one testified in support of the bill.
Senate Bill 777 would eliminate many of the qualifying conditions currently allowed under the OMMA, and would replace them with seemingly arbitrary conditions. For instance, cancer would no longer be a qualifying condition – but nausea as a result of chemotherapy or appetite loss associated with cancer would still qualify; cachexia in general (wasting syndrome) would be replaced with only appetite loss associated with AIDS or cancer; seizures and muscle spasms including but not limited to multiple sclerosis would be replaced with multiple sclerosis with spasicity. Leland Berger testified that thousands of patients that currently benefit from the use of medical marijuana would become criminals for their therapuetic use of medicinal cannabis, which is what the OMMA was intended to prevent.
The Oregonian reports:
Kruse’s proposal, contained in Senate Bill 777, strikes several general illnesses from the list of those for which cannabis can be legally used, including cancer, severe pain, severe nausea and seizures. It replaces them with more specific conditions, such as nausea resulting from chemotherapy treatment for cancer, and spasticity caused by multiple sclerosis.
Contrary to the reporting by the Oregonian that severe pain was among the conditions removed, severe pain is actually one of two categories that were expanded and/or added to the OMMA; under SB 777, severe pain would be replaced with ‘severe or neuropathic pain,’ in effect increasing the number of patients that would qualify under this category. Opponents of medical marijuana often point to the large percentage of patients who list severe pain as one of their qualifying conditions as ‘proof of excessive abuses.’ The other category that would be added under SB 777 is “insomnia associated with fibromylagia.” (Insomnia is not currently a qualifying condition under the OMMA).
One of the primary sponsors of the bill, Senator Kruse, justified his sponsorship of the poorly thought-out bill by saying, “Sometimes you just need to begin the discussion.” Laird Funk, one of the co-authors of the original OMMA and member of the Advisory Committee for Medical Marijuana (ACMM), described SB 777 as a “very clumsy” way to start a conversation, and suggested that legislators contact the ACMM or other patient and activist communities if a discussion was desired. Senator Kruse also stated after the hearing that he is willing to be “flexible” and make some changes, reported the Oregonian.
Due to the large number of bills before the legislature this session, and the anticipated opposition from advocates for medical marijuana, a work group has been formed “to look at ways to prevent abuses of the 1998 voter-approved measure that legalized use of marijuana for medical reasons.” Some medical marijuana advocates are simply asking the legislature to leave the medical marijuana program untouched, concerned that opening the door to modifying the program will result in ‘dash amendments’ that will negate any proposed benefits for patients.
In 2005, SB 1085 modified the OMMA to increase the amount of usable medical marijuana a patient could possess from 3 ounces to 24 ounces, and increase the number of plants a cardholder could grow from 7 total (no more than 3 mature) to 6 mature and 18 seedlings or starts; however, through dash amendments, the legislature added the “12×12” rule to define a mature marijuana plant (a mature plant is any plant that is larger than 12 inches in height OR 12 inches in width OR flowering), and patients lost the affirmative defense if they exceed the set limits under the OMMA (for example, if a seedling grows larger than 12 inches in any direction, or if it begins to flower).
Bills introduced in the 2011 Legislative Session to-date, at a glance:
- SB 377 – allows misdemeanor conviction for marijuana cultivation by non-cardholder, if individual is growing under the limits set by the OMMA.
- SB 708 – increases law enforcement access to OMMP cardholder information.
- SB 777 – modifies qualifying conditions, removes authority of OHA to add qualifying conditions and requires cardholders renew every 6 months.
- SB 874 – creates legal marijuana farms and distribution through licensed pharmacies.
- HB 2982 – prohibits individuals convicted of a felony involving any controlled substance from becoming an OMMP cardholder.
- HB 2994 – prohibits cultivation of marijuana within 2500 square feet of school or place of worship.
- HB 3046 – creates patient cooperatives for medical marijuana cultivation and sales, requires signed waiver for law enforcement inspections of cooperatives, imposes 10% tax on ‘net income’ appropriated for specific named purposes, eliminates marijuana growsites for more than 2 cardholders other than cooperatives (for more detailed analysis, see earlier articles here, here and here).
- HB 3077 – requires OMMP registry cardholder to be an Oregon resident.
- HB 3093 – reduces amount of usable marijuana a registry cardholder may possess to one ounce.
- HB 3103 – prohibits issuance of OMMP registry identification card to individual under 18 years of age.
- HB 3129 – increases law enforcement access to OMMP cardholder information, including specific number of cardholders registered at an address, names, etc and reduces protections for confidentiality of cardholders.
- HB 3132 – many changes to the OMMP, including requiring a waiver for law enforcement inspections of private growsites, requiring referring physician to be the patient’s primary care physician, stamped paperwork provided by OHA only provides legal protection for 30 days at which point patients would be felons (OMMP is about 5 months behind in processing OMMP cards, according to those that testified at today’s hearing), prohibits those convicted of felonies relating to controlled substances from participating in the OMMP for 15 years for the first offense, and forever for 2 or more offenses, and more.
- HB 3202 – many changes to the OMMP, including requiring a waiver for law enforcement inspections of private growsites, requiring referring physcian to be the individual’s primary care physcian, reduces number of plants allowed to two plants and two seedlings and reduces amount of usable marijuana to one ounce, restricts number of patients at a growsite to four, prohibits growsites from being located within 1000 feet of a school, requires cardholder to be at least 18 years of age, prohibits those convicted of felonies relating to controlled substances from participating in the OMMP for 15 years for the first offense, and forever for 2 or more offenses, prohibits providing medical marijuana to any other person (including other cardholders) unless the person is the designated person responsible for a growsite), and more.
- HB 3423 – similar to SB 874, requires Oregon Health Authority (OHA, formerly DHS) to establish standards and procedures for manufacture and distribution of medical marijuana through pharmacies.
- HB 3426 – requires applicant for medical marijuana growsite to notify OHA if location for growsite is rented or leased; requires OHA to notify landlord that medical marijuana will be grown on property.