State reaps windfall from medical marijuana

May 31, 2005

Associated Press, Minneapollis Star Tribune

SALEM, Ore. -— Oregon lawmakers have discovered an unexpected source of revenue — medical marijuana.

When Oregon began its medical marijuana program six years ago, officials didn't expect it to grow so fast. Now, there are more than 10,400 registered patients who have produced a surplus of $1.1 million.

Hungry to balance Oregon's lopsided budget, House legislators voted 49-10 last week to siphon $900,000 of that money to pay for other Human Services' needs. The bill now moves to the Senate.

Barry Kast, the agency's assistant director for health services, said the department was left with no choice after 'three years of cuts, cuts, cuts.''

But backers of medical marijuana say that the surplus should be poured back into the program, not Human Services.

'If any of this money came from the general fund, I'd agree that some of it should be transferred back. But the medical marijuana program never cost the taxpayer a dime,'' said Dr. Rick Bayer, a physician who was the chief petitioner of the Oregon Medical Marijuana Act, which passed in 1998.



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