Medical marijuana rules will say if cardholders can use at dispensaries

SALEM — Officials at the Oregon Health Authority will have to decide soon whether medical marijuana cardholders should be allowed to use the drug at dispensaries that will become legal next year under a new state law.

An advisory committee discussed that topic and others at its final meeting today. The state expects to finalize dispensary regulations by next month. They'll take effect in March.

The debate follows the Legislature's decision this summer to allow medical marijuana users to purchase the drug from state-licensed stores, which will have to meet standards for the safety of their products and security of their premises.

The decision around on-site use divided the 13-member advisory panel. The committee can make recommendations, but final decisions will be left to the Oregon Health Authority, which was given authority to write marijuana regulations.

Some say use of the drug should be allowed at the stores because some patients have nowhere else to safely ingest it, or they derive value from interacting with other people struggling with debilitating conditions. Medical marijuana cardholders living in federally subsidized Section 8 housing, for example, are prohibited from using marijuana at home because the drug remains illegal under federal law.

"It's not necessarily just that people want a place to go and smoke a blunt and listen to a rap album," Jordan Kober, founder and editor of Oregon Grown Magazine, told the panel. "They want a place where they can feel human again."

Others, however, say a patient wouldn't take a narcotic inside a pharmacy, and medical marijuana dispensaries shouldn't be any different.

Tom Burns, who is overseeing the rules-drafting for the state, said he expects to resolve remaining questions and publish the final draft by mid-January. He said he wants to give potential dispensary owners as much time as possible to review the rules before they can apply for a license in March.

— Associated Press

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