Changes proposed to Ore. medical marijuana law

July 23, 2005

Associated Press, KGW - TV

State Senators have unanimously endorsed a plan that would let holders of medical marijuana cards in Oregon have up to 1 1/2 pounds of dried marijuana and six mature plants. The legislation, which now moves to the Oregon House, is aimed at clarifying ambiguous sections of Oregon's voter-approved medical marijuana law that took effect in 1998. The bill 'provides the clear, bright lines that law enforcement needs to enforce the law fairly, without infringement on the rights of those who legitimately use the product,' said Sen. Bill Morrisette, D-Springfield, the bill's chief sponsor. Lack of clarity in the existing law means law officers sometimes 'can get into situations where they're not sure how to proceed,' said Kevin Campbell, executive director of the Oregon Association Chiefs of Police. 'The reason we like the bill is we think it clears up some of the ambiguity. It gives officers more solid ground to stand on.' Oregon NORML (National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws) is also backing the bill, with Madeline Martinez, the group's executive director, calling it a 'great enhancement' for patients. Current law permits cardholders and caregivers — people who grow marijuana for cardholders who can't or don't want to grow their own — to grow three mature and four immature plants and to possess up to three ounces of dried marijuana. The legislation lets cardholders grow up to six mature plants and 18 seedlings and possess 24 ounces of dried marijuana. But in exchange for that provision, law enforcement got something important to them: patients would no longer be able to argue in court that having more marijuana than permitted is a medical necessity and therefore permissible. That change is one of the reasons that Leland Berger, a Portland attorney who helped draft the original law and defends medical marijuana patients, opposes the Senate legislation. 'This compromise legislation leaves people and situations behind, and that's how come I'm opposed to it,' Berger said. Berger said the increased limits are inadequate, particularly for outdoor growers who have only one crop a year. And he doesn't like a provision that restricts caregivers to grow for no more than four patients.

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