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Medical Marijuana Growers May Get Hit With Higher Fees

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

 

The Oregon Health Authority announced this week that it would be proposing an increase in fees for medical marijuana growers. The increase would force growers to pay four times as much per patient than they do currently. Medical marijuana advocates told GoLocal that the measure would hurt patients who rely on safe access to medical cannabis.

Under state regulations, medical marijuana growers can grow cannabis for up to four patients. Currently, growers must pay $50 for each patient they grow for. Under the new proposal, they would have to pay $200 per patient.

Anthony Taylor, President and lobbyist for Compassionate Oregon, told GoLocal the proposal could spell trouble for medical marijuana patients. 

“The effect on patients is collateral,” Taylor said. “Patients don't have to pay this fee directly but they will pay for it by paying higher prices for medicine. Those people are going to suffer.”

People who grow for themselves will not have to pay increased fees. The price of registering for a medical marijuana card will also not change.

Health Authority Officials said the increase in fees is necessary. They cited the newly created recreational marijuana market, which they believe will cause fees paid to the medical marijuana program to drop. The fees support regulatory services for the medical marijuana industry and public health initiatives.

Andre Ourso, manager of the health authority's medical marijuana program, said that he expects 40 percent of medical dispensaries to transition to the retail market. 

“We may lose a significant amount of revenue from dispensaries," Ourso said.

Unnecessary and Unreasonable

Taylor said that there were multiple problems with the proposed change. Primarily, Taylor said, the increase in fees is not needed. 

“This is unnecessary,” Taylor said. “This program already produced enough revenue to pay for itself without the fee increase.”

Taylor also pointed out that he feels the proposal is unfair to medical marijuana growers. 

“Most of these growers do this out of compassion, not to make money,” Taylor said. “To ask them to step up and spend more money in order to keep doing that is absolutely unreasonable.”

Charles Gamble, Chair of the Oregon Medical Marijuana Patients, Growers and Caretakers Association, said that raising the fees is unfair. 

“The fees don't go to increased services. They raised the fees once already and introduced no new services but used the money for other programs,” Gamble said. “What they're asking is that Oregon’s sickest people pay more to fund other programs. That isn't fair.”

Risks for Patients 

Taylor said that because of the fee increases, many growers may be forced to charge patients more for their medication or stop growing entirely.

“There are growers that aren’t going to be able to pay this, and they're going to have to stop growing or start forcing patients to pay more,” he said. “That means people aren't going back to get their medications and they could suffer.”

Gamble agreed. 

“Patients are going to suffer if the Oregon Health Authority keeps raising the fees,” Gamble said. “More and more growers are not going to be able to provide for their patients.”

 

Related Slideshow: 20 Things You Need to Know About Buying Pot in Oregon

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Employers Still Can—And Will—Drug Test

Many of the state’s largest employers, including Fred Meyer, Intel, Bi-Mart and Dairy Queen, will still test for marijuana, despite its new legal status. Companies that employ heavy equipment operators are required to buy insurance, and typically require drug testing.

Often, even companies that employ workers who operate machinery while simultaneously employing workers who do not will test, as the company will receive a lower monthly deductible if they test all of their employees across the board.

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Only a Quarter-Ounce per Customer, Please

Dispensaries will only be allowed to sell a quarter-ounce of marijuana per customer, per day. Residents are allowed different amounts for travel and home storage.

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Child Proof Packaging

Dispensaries, in addition to their limits on sales per person, also must package their recreational marijuana in a particular way. It must be placed in an opaque bag that is smell and child-proof.

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Can I Grow Cannabis at My House?

Those with a green thumb will be permitted to grow their own marijuana for private consumption. They are only allowed four plants per person, however, and each must be obscured from public view.

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How Much Can I Have at My House?    

Residents will be allowed to keep plenty of dry marijuana (flowers or leaves that are ready to be smoked) in their home. They are allowed to store eight ounces, more than thirty times the purchasing limits, in their home.

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How Much Can I Travel With?

Traveling restrictions are stricter than regulations for home storage. Adults are able to travel with up to one ounce, or four times the purchase limit, on their person.

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Driving Under the Influence

Unlike the Washington law, which included attached regulations concerning driving impairment, Oregon’s law has more room for interpretation. 

Driving under the influence of marijuana is classified as a Class B Traffic Violation, which carries a presumptive fine of $260 and is not to exceed maximum fine of $2,000. The Oregon Liquor Control Commission has been tasked with researching the subject of drugged driving and presenting its finding to the Oregon Legislative Assembly no later than January 2017.

After reviewing the OLCC report, the state legislative assembly will decide whether passing more extensive driving regulations will be necessary.

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No Smoking in Public

Yes, marijuana is legal. No, that does not mean you can light up in the middle of the street. Consumption is only allowed out of the public view.

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Where will the New Tax Money Go?

Where will the tax money go?

Measure 91, the ballot measure passed last year that legalized marijuana in Oregon, stipulates that the tax revenue collected from recreational sales will be divided up in the following ways:

40 percent- Common School Fund
20 percent- Mental Health Alcoholism and Drug Services
15 percent- Oregon State Police
10 percent- Counties for enforcement of the measure
10 percent- Cities for enforcement of the measure
5 percent- Oregon Health Authority for drug abuse prevention

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Where You Can Buy Marijuana

Already licensed medical marijuana dispensaries will be allowed to sell recreationally beginning on October 1, although not every dispensary will sell recreationally.

For a full list of those that have been approved to sell to the public, click here.

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Not Everywhere

While marijuana is now legal for recreational use in the state of Oregon, some individual communities have passed laws banning recreational marijuana facilities from opening. Consumption will still be legal in these areas, but sales will not.

For a full list of cities that have passed these bans, click here.

Photo: Downtown Baker City; via Wikimedia Commons

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What to Do at a Dispensary

First time at a dispensary? No worries, said Meghan Walstatter, Owner of Pure Green Dispensary. Just ask plenty of questions to staff to ease all of your concerns. 

Photo: Pure Green Dispensary

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Budtenders-Bartenders for Weed

Have questions as you make your purchase? No problem, just ask your friendly budtender. The cannabis industry’s answer to bartenders, budtenders are knowledgeable about the different strains and types of marijuana and their effects and are ready and eager to help novice smokers.

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Cannabis Indica

Indica, along with its sister sativa, are one of the two main types of cannabis. Each has their own unique effects on its user. Indica strains are known for relieving physical pain and giving users a sleepy, lethargic feeling.

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Cannabis Sativa

Sativa strains are the counter to indica strains.They are known for as a more mental stimulation, giving users more creative and sometimes, more focus

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Hybrids

The best of both worlds. At least, that’s what hybrids claim to be. They combine the properties of an indica strain and a sativa strain, by allowing users to feel relaxed, but not sleepy.

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Bring Cash

While some dispensaries do accept credit card, most do not, according to Leah Maurer, Co-chair of Women’s Grow. Make sure to bring some cash if you plan to purchase some cannabis today.

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How to Store your Cannabis

Concerned about storing your new marijuana in your home around your family? Maurer said to store it as you would alcohol or prescription drugs, away from the reach of children and teenagers.

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Don’t Cross State Lines

It will still be illegal to transport marijuana across state lines. That restriction even includes those crossing the Columbia River into Washington, where marijuana is also legal. Marijuana is classified as a Scheduled I controlled substance, meaning that anyone transporting it across line is prosecutable by Federal agencies

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Make Sure to Talk to Your Kids

It's likely that children and young adults will see more cannabis, and cannabis consumption, now that recreational sales have begun. Maurer said to make sure you have an honest, frank conversation about the benefits and consequences of the substance.

 
 

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