Legislators look at more rules on growing, selling medical marijuana

State lawmakers in Oregon are considering a bill that would make medical marijuana dispensaries legal amid arguments that the state's 53,000 users don't always want to grow their own pot or buy directly from growers.

Dispensaries exist now in Oregon, but there is no law regulating their operations and some counties have chosen to shut them down. The proposal before the House Health Care Committee would require dispensaries to register with the state medical marijuana program and meet certain quality standards.

"Many patients do not have a grower, do not want to grow themselves, and have difficulty finding safe, reliable and legal access for the medicine they need," said Geoff Sugarman, director of Oregonians for Medical Rights and the bill's architect.

Under current law, cardholders must grow the pot themselves or find a grower to grow it for them. Sugarman said this has led to an abuse of the system.

"Marijuana being grown legally for patients is not finding its way into the hands of patients, but is instead being siphoned off into the black market," he told lawmakers.

Under the bill, facilities would be required to test all batches of marijuana for pesticides, mold and mildew. It would also mandate that facilities meet certain security requirements.

Rep. Wally Hicks, a Republican from Grants Pass, told lawmakers he does not support legitimizing dispensaries. He is backing an alternative approach that would make it easier for cardholders to connect with growers and would impose quality requirements on the products.

The committee also heard testimony on a bill that would limit the number of growers per grow site to three in an effort to crack down on commercial marijuana growing operations. There is currently no limit, which has resulted in sizeable marijuana plantations, especially in Southern Oregon.

Oregon voters last November rejected legalizing the recreational use of marijuana, but there is another effort under way in the Legislature that would try again to make it legal.

— Associated Press

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