Governor Kate Brown recently signed two pieces of legislature that make changes to Oregon’s Medical Marijuana Program (OMMP). OMMP cardholders can rest at ease knowing that the state isn’t going to let the new recreational cannabis market squash the medical program in Oregon. The recreational and medical markets can finally start working in conjunction with each other, instead of working against each other and making medical cardholders feel like they are losing all their rights and privileges.
The first was House Bill 4014, which allows cannabis producers, processors and retailers to start business without first having to abide by the two-year residency requirement. This means weed can be produced and processed faster, without having to wait two years It will also allow medical businesses to deduct business expenses from their state taxes; like any other business! The new bill will also reduce medical card fees for qualifying veterans from $200 to $20, a great relief to all the veteran medical cardholders suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). HB-4014 will even relax the rules for people who are on probation or waiting to go to trial. The new rules will guarantee that even medical cardholders who have had trouble with the state will still be able to access and use their medication.
The second bill Oregon’s governor signed was Senate Bill 1598, which will prove to be a great help to small medical businesses. This bill makes it easier for small medical businesses to get licensed; medical growing operations will no longer have to jump through hoops like filling out a bunch of extra paperwork just to get a license. This easier process will allow them to be a part of the regulated recreational market as well. The new licensing system offers lower fees and fewer requirements in general, and will put up fewer road blocks to those looking to start a medical business. This bill will also be a great asset to those farming medical cannabis crops on a larger scale. Large farm-scale grow sites that are growing for medical patients or research will for the first time be recognized as farm crop producers. This is already the case for recreational growers, so it makes sense, and protects legitimate medical cannabis crops and their farmers from unjustified lawsuits.
There will also be new laws set in place under SB-1598 to protect in home medical cannabis grow sites from inspection by the Oregon Health Authority. Letting personal medical growers have the security of knowing they won’t lose everything in an instant. The bill will also allow non-profit medical dispensaries to provide medicine to patients for very little money, and accept excess cannabis from growers to do so. Health authorities will also now be required to look at the accessibility of medical cannabis in areas that might lack many local businesses, and ensure that patients across Oregon can access medical cannabis.
Several more bills are awaiting Brown’s signature that will be very important to Oregon’s cannabis industry. One would allow edibles and concentrates to be sold recreationally, which might be implemented much earlier than state lawmakers originally planned. Another upcoming bill will protect banks from criminal liability when working with legal cannabis businesses; something that should have happened a long time ago. There are good things happening in the Oregon Legislature, and for once lawmakers are protecting the use of cannabis in Oregon, and the rights of those in the cannabis industry.
CO Bill to Allow Schools the Choice to Let Student Patients Medicate
Colorado has been struggling with the issue of medical cannabis in schools ever since cannabis was first legalized in the state for medical use. Schools fear a loss of federal funding if they allow cannabis treatment for sick students, since the plant is still federally illegal, while parents, advocates and patients fight for patient access so that students can get relief. This month, cannabis patients won a major victory, as medicating with cannabis will now be allowed in Colorado public schools under a newly passed bill.
According to The Denver Post, House Bill 1373 requires treatment rights for patients, but allows schools to be able to choose where the patients can medicate, and what forms of cannabis they can use. Representative Jonathan Singer, the Democrat from Longmont who supported the bill, claims that schools who do not put such a policy into action are leaving it up to parents and students to choose how and where medication can take place.
The recent bill passed 10-3 in the House Agriculture, Livestock and Natural Resources Committee, showing an overwhelming support for children being able to medicate on school property.
“It forces a conversation,” Singer told The Denver Post regarding the bill, “that we were hoping would be a voluntary conversation.”
This bill works to help patients gain access, since the currently existing bill, allowing medication only if schools create a program, has not been successful. So far, no schools have implemented such a program, so until now, no medical cannabis users have been able to imbibe on school property.
“It’s kind of exciting that they are finally going to let it in after fighting this for five years trying to get children their meds in schools,” explained Shan Moore, the father of Chaz Moore, who fought and struggled while in school to be able to use medical cannabis.
“I do think it’s great—it’s just a little late for my kid,” he added. “Chaz stopped going to school before graduating. He would get sick, not be able to take his meds in school, and got tired of playing that game, and when he went to try and get his GED the same thing happened, since those classes take place in schools as well. So maybe now he’ll be able to get his GED and make something happen. He tried the online schools, but he doesn’t learn well online—he really needs to be there in person.”
Moore hopes that maybe with this new bill in place, his son will be able to medicate in schools, and therefore take the GED and continue his education. Like Chaz Moore, many Colorado children desire an education, but struggle to work and focus because they can’t get the medicine they need. Hopefully with this new bill in place, students who need medicine will be able to receive relief so they can focus on learning.
Colorado passes Ordinance to Implement a Cannabis Odor Regulation
At first glance, odor regulations seem like something out of a cartoon or children’s book, but here in Denver they are very real.
According to The Denver Post, Denver City council is concerned about the offensive to some, pleasant to others, aroma that is omitted from dispensaries and other cannabis operations, and recently passed an ordinance to crack down tighter on odors.
While the city has been debating back and forth about how they should treat the expiring moratorium on cannabis businesses, they quickly decided in favor of the odor ordinance. If this passes this month, then this new rule will be officially approved and enforceable by the local Health Department. This new regulation would mean that businesses can file odor complaints, not just private citizens. Then, if a dispensary receives five complaints, they would have 30 days to clean up their act and fix the odor issue before they receive an inspection.
Cannabis businesses and advocates are not happy about this new complication, and are speaking out against the arbitrary nature of regulating odors.
“The only thing that can be done is air filtration to ensure that odors are mitigated through carbon scrubbers,” explained Mark Slaugh, Executive Director of the Cannabis Business Alliance, in an exclusive interview with CULTURE. “The ‘problem’ is not the odor per se, since obnoxious odors aren’t outright prohibited or regulated for other businesses with strong scents. The problem is the prejudice giving rise to complaints in the first place and over-reactionary ordinances that unfairly target cannabis businesses and don’t apply equally to other Denver businesses with obnoxious odors.”
Slaugh further argues that the cannabis industry is bringing needed change to the city, and should not be slighted for something as minor as strong odors.
“The cannabis industry is primarily responsible for producing economic benefits for once poor and decaying neighborhoods which the industry improved,” he added. “These areas were once stagnant, filled with commercially abandoned warehouses that eventually became cannabis cultivation and manufacturing facilities. The city of Denver has required the industry to improve the landscape around those buildings and they have truly begun transforming these neighborhoods.”
“Now, the industry is being targeted under this odor ordinance and under the moratorium as the ‘problem’ of these areas when, in fact, they are the pioneers of neighborhood renovation and a major factor in the rise of tourism and people moving to Denver post-legalization,” he continued. “It would seem that the City council wants to kick out and limit the very pioneers who created a settlement in the first place, all in the name of continued development and gentrification of the neighborhoods cannabis businesses have increased their value in and call home.”
Even some of the City council members are skeptical that this new ordinance will be a good way to fix the problem.
“When you begin to saturate and when you begin to concentrate (businesses), there’s no odor ordinance that can identify where this is coming from,” Albus Brooks, a local Councilman, told The Denver Post. “And I’ve never seen a council so sure of a bill that hasn’t even come through committee yet.”
While there is no doubt that some measures should be taken to ensure dispensaries and grows contain there odors, many seem opposed to this new, somewhat draconian, odor ordinance proposal. A final decision will be reached this month.
Government Begins Rethinking Scheduling of Cannabis
There is currently a petition to the FDA in progress that calls the federal government to remove cannabis from the Controlled Substance Act’s Schedule I list, which holds the plant in the same category as hard drugs such as methamphetamine or heroin. Although medical cannabis, and now even recreational cannabis, is legal in Oregon, it still is not recognized as legal by the federal government. The Feds also don’t recognize it as officially serving a medical purpose.
The Controlled Substances Act has very strict criteria for how to classify the drugs on its Schedule I list, and there are many people who think that after many recent studies, cannabis simply doesn’t meet that criteria. To be placed on the list in the first place, a drug not only has to have a high potential for abuse, but it also has to have no medical uses, and be considered unsafe. The fiction of these statements in reference to cannabis is now widely known. A few very recent studies have proved the effectiveness of treating seizures in children with cannabis oil. The people are basically calling the government out and saying, let’s rethink the way we think about cannabis. To get cannabis removed from the Schedule I list, there has to be a petition placed with the Drug Enforcement Administration. There have been many attempts to get cannabis removed from this list in the past. Since 1972, petitions to the DEA have been denied. This time, however, the DEA has requested the Food and Drug Administration to perform a study to see if the classification of cannabis really should be different.
Supporters of the reclassification of cannabis claim that once the plant is no longer controlled by the federal government, federal spending that was once used to enforce cannabis laws and process offenders through the criminal justice system can be reallocated to more important things like education. They also argue that the U.S. government could make tons of revenue on the taxation and regulation of the cannabis industry. We already know this to be true in Oregon, where the state government collected nearly 3.5 million dollars of revenue after only its first month of recreational sales.
The reclassification of cannabis, and its removal from the Controlled Substance Act’s Schedule I list, could mean big changes for Oregonians. It would first of all make a huge difference in the way we think about cannabis locally, and nationally. The stigmas that surround cannabis that are already starting to melt away will soon be gone completely. Secondly, medical growers and dispensary owners will start to face less opposition when trying to operate and run their businesses. Not constantly looking over their shoulder for the Feds. Our state government would finally be in agreement with the federal government, and Oregonians will no longer be breaking federal law when they smoke or sell cannabis. This would create big changes in the eyes of the Oregon State police and court system, and the way they deal with cannabis users.
The DEA has remained pretty silent about their upcoming decision, and their study with the FDA. It has been projected that they will be making a decision by mid-year. Hopefully the U.S. Government can finally recognize what Oregon and many other states already have about the medical benefits of cannabis.
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