With just over 6 weeks left until Oregonians vote on legal marijuana, the media machine is kicking into high gear churning out stories of alleged “abuse” of the medical marijuana program and horror stories of drug trafficking Oregon’s marijuana to other regions in the country. But there is another side to the profitability of marijuana that is often overlooked among the splashy headlines about raids on medical marijuana providers and farms: the state of Oregon makes big money every time a medical marijuana patient is impacted by one of these raids.
There is no doubt that marijuana is profitable in the black market – advocates and opponents agree on this point – and Oregon is known for its superior marijuana which fetches top dollar around the country. Where opponents see a drug trafficking problem, however, advocates see an opportunity to regulate the industry and provide legal markets for marijuana to be bought and sold, to both patients and recreational users, recapturing the revenue currently lost to the black market.
Patients were already upset about the 2011 fee increase, which took place behind closed doors without public comment and skirted legislative processes by appearing in a spending bill instead of a revenue bill. The new fees have made the medical marijuana program too expensive for some to renew, leaving patients open to criminal prosecution if they continue to use medical marijuana. Now, with recent raids, the state of Oregon simultaneously sees its revenue soar; the Oregon Medical Marijuana Program gets an additional $150 fee from every patient that has to change their grower as a result of a raid or bust.
The new fee structure requires patients to pay $50 to register a new grower and/or growsite and then pay another $100 to reprint the cards with the correct information. To make matters worse, these patients will still be without any medical marijuana after paying all these fees, since the marijuana was seized in the raids. For James Bowman’s patients, as just one example, the state of Oregon will now make $30,000 from his 200 patients, after already making up to $50,000 from their initial annual registration. After up to $80,000 is paid to the state of Oregon, these patients walk away without any medical marijuana to show for it, in addition to looming expiration dates on their annual registration cards where they have to do it all over again.
Even worse, because there is now a cost to change growers, more and more patients are suffering from increased problems with unscrupulous growers. Patients are reporting feeling “stuck” with shady growers; if the patient cannot afford the $150 cost of appointing a new grower and getting updated registration cards, they are forced to retain the grower and inadvertently prop up criminal activity. Clearly this is not what was intended when the legislature increased the fees, although it was obvious to advocates who begged the legislature and OMMP to reconsider the fee increases.
As more patient resource centers are raided and shut down, patients are being forced to find someone to grow their medical marijuana. Due to the high costs of applying for the registration and appointing a grower, many patients are being enticed into bad situations simply because the grower offers to assist in covering the costs. But once the patient discovers that the situation wasn’t what they expected, they are stuck.
This can all easily change if Oregonians approve Measure 80 this November. Under Measure 80, any adult could grow marijuana without the burden of paying the state what some deem “protection money”. There are definitely potential profits from marijuana, but currently criminals and the state both are profiting at the expense of our sick and disabled, and patients are not being protected.
As I continue to countdown to Election Day, upcoming topics will include the various uses for hemp, the controversy surrounding medical marijuana and how the Oregon Cannabis Tax Act 2012 will impact Oregonians. I will also focus on the conflicts with federal laws as well as the election process itself, including who can vote and how to register to vote.
Too many Oregonians aren’t even aware that Oregon will be voting on this crucial issue this November 6. This Election Day 2012 countdown will be full of information that is important to voters all throughout Oregon. Please subscribe to receive email alerts for future articles, including continuing coverage of Election 2012 and Measure 80!