Oregon state regulators have reduced the amount of medical marijuana that can be legally purchased at dispensaries by nearly 96 percent.
Officials took the significant and unprecedented action following a series of large-scale cannabis purchases they feared could be linked to diversion of legal marijuana to the illegal market.
The new limits went into effect on Friday and are set to expire on December 27, though they may be modified or revoked following an investigation into the large purchases.
“Today’s action on OMMP purchase limits is designed to prevent potential diversion of usable marijuana into the secondary illegal market,” the Oregon Liquor Control Commission (OLCC) said in a statement released Thursday, referring to the Oregon Medical Marijuana Program. “The OLCC will continue to investigate the suspicious activity and will work with the Oregon Health Authority, which has authority over the OMMP, and if necessary forward investigative findings to law enforcement.”
Oregon voters legalized recreational marijuana in 2014. The year before, the state legislature moved to legalize and regulate medical cannabis sales at licensed dispensaries.
Qualified OMPP cardholders were allowed to purchase up to 24 ounces per day.
But following some repeated, high-volume purchases—which occurred amid warnings from federal law enforcement about legal marijuana diverted to the illegal market—state regulators are moving to temporarily reduce purchase limits to one ounce, the OLCC said.
Exact details about the suspicious activity that triggered the unprecedented reduction in purchase limits were not available. But according to an agency spokesman, an OLCC data analyst noticed a pattern of repeat high-volume purchases this week.
Patrons were repeatedly visiting dispensaries to make 24-ounce purchases over a period of days, acquiring in a week’s time caches of six pounds or more of cannabis, spokesman Mark Pettinger told Marijuana Moment.
Since 95 percent of marijuana purchases in Oregon are in the amount of two ounces or less, the high-volume purchases raised red flags.“If we detect something that looks illegal or suspicious, we need to take action,” Pettinger said.
As The Portland Mercury observed, OLCC made the move in the context of bellicose rhetoric from Trump administration officials.
Earlier in the year, Oregon had in its marijuana inventory almost 1 million pounds of cannabis flower. The overproduction has caused prices on the legal market to crash, and has also drawn attention from authorities like Billy Williams, the state’s U.S. attorney.
Oregon’s own Health Authority has also cited “insufficient and inaccurate reporting and tracking” within the Oregon Medical Marijuana Program.
In this context, OLCC’s purchase-limit reduction could be seen as a preemptive move to ward off potential federal action.
See the original article published on Marijuana Moment below:
Alarmed By Large Marijuana Purchases, Oregon Imposes Strict Temporary Limits
[**Breaking news on May 13, 2015: According to The Weed Blog, an online publication based in Portland, Oregon, SB 844 has failed and the bill is, as stands, dead.]
Although Oregon legalized medical marijuana 17 years ago (it was the second state, following California, to do so), it is now in the process of revising its regulations and possibly imposing tighter rules on its program. With voters having recently legalized recreational cannabis, lawmakers in the state are worried that marijuana supposedly intended for sick Oregonians is being channeled into the black market and ending up in the pipes of recreational consumers in other states.
To combat these issues, legislators are considering new limits on the number of plants that can be home cultivated by patients, a mandatory tracking system for all cannabis grown in the state, and a requirement that those involved in cultivation, processing/manufacturing, or retail sales be a resident of Oregon for at least two years. All of these regulations are embodied in SB 844, the bill currently making its way through Oregon’s legislature.
Opponents Speak Out
Opponents of these plans are coming out in droves in the progressive state. They claim that some reforms being discussed could increase prices for the sick. Patients and the entrepreneurs serving them are also frustrated that changes are being discussed whatsoever. They were told during campaign season that the passage of legal recreational pot would have no effect on the state’s medicinal program.
Some politicians want to see Oregon’s recreational market become more mature before making any changes to the medical program. Sen. Floyd Prozanski, a Eugene Democrat, believes that the effect of legal recreational marijuana is unknown. He is worried that, if medical dispensaries are allowed to sell to recreational customers (something being considered), this may result in medical users paying more or otherwise being penalized. Prozanski explained:
“We have to take moderate steps. That way, if the regulations help with black market leakage, great. If not, we can go further at a later date.”
However, some politicians are calling for clarifications and revisions to the medical program in order to implement Measure 91, the recently passed recreational law.
The bill, as it currently stands, limits new individual grow sites to 12 plants in residential areas and 48 plants in rural gardens. Existing grows would be allowed double this amount. Sen. Prozanski is proposing that none of the plant limits go into effect until the end of 2016. However, Sen. Ginny Burdick, a Democrat from Portland, said a delay in these limits “is a nonstarter” in the Senate. “We’ve been very generous in plant allocations,” she said. “That’s a huge amount of marijuana per grow site.”
There are other serious topics of contention as the bill moves forward. A major issue, especially in terms of providing citizens with safe access, is the ability of cities and counties to ban dispensaries (as has been common in both Colorado and Oregon). When medical marijuana was first approved in Oregon and dispensaries began to appear, the state allowed municipal and county governments to prohibit reefer retailers in their own communities for a period of several months. During that time, local bans were enacted by 146 municipalities and 26 counties.
Despite such areas of debate for Oregon’s lawmakers, its medical program continues to grow at a rapid pace. More than 70,000 residents now hold official medical cards. The state boasts 36,000 registered cannabis grow sites, 34,000 of which provide medicine for four or fewer patients. 500 of these registered grow facilities generate medicine for nine or more patients. Some fear that more regulation would cause medical growers to shift to the recreational market, abandoning patients within the state who have been receiving free or low-cost marijuana for nearly two decades.
Oregon’s current medical marijuana program, in effect since 1998, covers the following conditions:
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Chronic pain
- HIV or AIDS
- Multiple Sclerosis
- Post-traumatic stress
- Other conditions are subject to approval
The Early Learning Council is the governing body that oversees the Early Learning System in Oregon. A recent council vote prohibits child care licensing for professionals who cultivate, distribute or use cannabis, regardless of whether it is for medicinal or recreational purposes. Although there has been significant support for the measure, objections have also been raised.
New Rules Regarding Marijuana and Child Care
Several new regulations came with this ruling. For example, the council voted to prohibit adults child care employees from using marijuana while they interact with children at child care facilities. This applies to both registered medical marijuana patients and recreational users. At-home child care facilities cannot be run by patients holding medical cards or anyone who uses marijuana during business hours or in the presence of children. Furthermore, growing or distributing marijuana in child care facilities is prohibited. However, the Early Learning Council did vote to allow children who hold medical marijuana cards to be able to receive their medication while they are at the child care facility.
The board stated that in homes where adult medical marijuana users are present who are not child care providers, any marijuana on site must be kept inside the packaging in which it was purchased, and must be locked away so that children cannot access it. In addition to dried marijuana flowers and leaves, this regulation applies to paraphernalia, accessories and consumable cannabis infused products. All of the new regulations apply immediately, and will be applied to recreational use when it becomes legal in July. Governor Kitzhaber strongly agrees with the council’s decision. In a released statement Gov. Kitzhaber stated,
“Marijuana consumption should not and cannot be tolerated within a child care environment licensed by the state. We entrust our providers to maintain safe learning environments where our children can thrive.”
Objections from Medical Marijuana Proponents
Supporters of medical marijuana have raised objections to regulations from the Early Learning Council since August, when a temporary ruling of the same nature was approved. Although medical marijuana is classified as a Schedule 2 controlled substance in Oregon, similarly to a number of other narcotic pain medications, marijuana appears to have been singled out for prohibition in child care facilities. As medical marijuana proponents pointed out, opioid painkillers could just as easily, if not more likely to cause a child care provider to neglect the children.
Furthermore, the new laws could cause problems for parents who use medical marijuana when they drop children off or pick them up at child care.Medical marijuana proponent, Anthony Taylor, feels that this ruling is unjust. Taylor explained to the Oregonian,
“It marginalizes card holders and asks them to not just step to the back of the bus but to get off the bus altogether.”
Finally, Oregon has yet to ban marijuana use among other professionals that deal with children. People holding teaching positions and medical health care workers are not held to the same level scrutiny as these day-care workers. As a result, this could easily result in a lawsuit against the state.