1. When did Oregon legalize the medical use of marijuana?
By an overwhelming margin, voters approved Measure 67 in November 1998. Known as the Oregon Medical Marijuana Act, the law created a right for patients to use marijuana as a medicine with a doctor’s recommendation. The law also required the Oregon Division of Health Services to set up a confidential registration system for patients. That system now issues credentials that patients must carry to prove that they are legally allowed to possess or use medical marijuana.
Measure 74 protects patients’ rights that were outlined in the 1998 law and, for the first time, creates a regulated system to supply this medicine to qualified patients.
2. How do patients get their medicine now?
Most patients have very few options to get medical marijuana. Oregon’s medical marijuana law merely says that patients are legally allowed to possess it or grow a small amount for themselves, after their doctors authorize them to use it. As a fallback, patients may legally designate another person to grow it for them, by having that person register with the Oregon Division of Health Services.
Practically speaking, most patients must buy marijuana on the black market or wait for it to grow. This is nothing like the pharmacy system we have for other medicines. Measure 74 would bring Oregon much closer to having medical marijuana pharmacies by authorizing non-profit clinics to provide it to qualified patients.
3. How many Oregon doctors have recommended marijuana to patients?
According to official statistics of the Oregon Division of Health Services, more than 3,300 separate Oregon doctors have recommended marijuana to their patients. This equates to about one-third of all physicians licensed by the state of Oregon. The percentage of general practitioners is likely to be higher, as many licensed physicians are specialists or otherwise would not be expected to serve patients with a need for medical use of marijuana.
4. Are all of the necessary regulations specified in Measure 74?
No, and for good reason. Measure 74 relies on a public, accountable rulemaking process to design some important details. The Oregon Division of Health Services will need to work with stakeholders including doctors, patients’ groups, law enforcement and community leaders to establish some details of how the new, regulated supply system will operate.
The drafters of Measure 74 saw this public process as superior to setting all of the rules in stone in the text of the ballot measure. What’s more, rules and regulations that do not work optimally can be changed in a later rulemaking process.
The Oregon Division of Health Services has shown over 12 years of implementing Oregon’s first medical marijuana law that the agency can be trusted to carry out this mission faithfully. It’s the right agency to manage the expansion of that law to encompass the regulated supply of medical marijuana now.