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County commissioners oppose legalizing medical marijuana dispensaries

We Marion County commissioners signed a resolution on Feb. 5 opposing the legalization of medical marijuana dispensaries. In fact, the resolution actually states, “The Marion County Board of Commissioners, the Marion County Sheriff and the Marion County District Attorney oppose the legalization of marijuana and find that allowing the operation of medical marijuana facilities or the storing or dispensing of marijuana to be contrary to their oaths (oaths of office) to support the Constitution of the United States of America and the Constitution of the State of Oregon and the laws thereof, and detrimental to public peace, health and safety.”

Since 1970, federal law has prohibited the manufacture and possession of marijuana. The federal government classifies marijuana as a schedule I drug. “Schedule I drugs, substances or chemicals are defined as drugs with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse. Schedule I drugs are the most dangerous of all the drug schedules with potentially severe psychological or physical dependence.”

Along with marijuana, other schedule I drugs include heroin, LSD, ecstasy and peyote.

Marijuana was moved to a schedule II drug in Oregon to correct a technical conflict in the law when Senate Bill 728 was passed in the 2009 legislative session. A letter from the Oregon Board of Pharmacy says, this move is “in no way intended to infer or imply that it is or should be available by prescription. In fact, marijuana is not available by prescription.” The letter goes on to say that rescheduling “marijuana on the state list does not supersede federal law or create a direct conflict with federal law.”

Other schedule II drugs include cocaine, methamphetamine and oxycodone. These schedule II drugs have a high potential for abuse, with use potentially leading to severe psychological or physical dependence.

Schedule I and schedule II drugs are dangerous and have a high potential for abuse and severe psychological and or physical dependence.

As in many states, the debate on the legalization of marijuana has a long and controversial history here in Oregon.

Voters approved, Ballot Measure 67, the Oregon Medical Marijuana Act in November 1998, allowing medical use of marijuana in Oregon.

In 2004 and in 2010 voters rejected the legalization of licensing and regulating dispensaries.

Then in 2013 the Oregon Legislature passed House Bill 3460 which adds the person responsible for or employed by a medical marijuana facility (dispensary) to the list of persons exempt from certain criminal laws. It directs the Oregon Health Authority to establish rules for a medical marijuana facility registration system. This bill becomes effective March 1.

HB 3460 and subsequent rules are poorly written, leaving cities and counties scrambling to understand what this legislation means for law enforcement and community livability. Cities are unsure what their rights are and what their options are to enforce these dispensaries and grow sites and what ordinances and laws can be implemented to keep their communities safe from illegal activity.

In response to this confusion and uncertainty, the Marion County Public Safety Coordinating Council, which I chair, held a public forum on Tuesday at 7 a.m.

The forum was in response to our cities asking what the county intends to do: Could we provide some guidance, might there be a unified position throughout the county among our cities and county government, they asked.

Forum speakers were going to share information that would help our community leaders determine the most appropriate course of action for their city.

Forum speakers included John Andrade with Bio-Med Testing Services, Inc., speaking on the physical effects of marijuana; Judge Tracy Prall, speaking on effects on children and families; both Sheriff Jason Myers and Keizer Police Chief John Teague were scheduled to talk from a law enforcement perspective; and District Attorney Walt Beglau addressed public policy directions and future concerns.

This is an extremely complex issue. There are no easy solutions when opinions are so vastly diverse, facts are easily manipulated and scientific and medical information are often ignored.

I’m proud that our city of Woodburn held an informational work session a couple of months ago. And, I am very pleased that the city of Stayton just recently passed an ordinance to regulate medical marijuana facilities within the city of Stayton.

Approximately 45 people attended our board session on Wednesday. Unfortunately, the room erupted with overwhelming emotion making it difficult for board chair Sam Brentano to control the meeting and for Commissioner Janet Carlson and me to hear the points they wanted to make. Some who attended did not cite accurate information and their emotions got in the way of clearly articulating their position. Afterward, however, I talked with two individuals and I will follow up with them to learn more about why they support medical marijuana.

We need more focus on facts and less knee jerk reactions. That will only come when we have more opportunities to hear each other’s opinions, perspectives and personal experiences.

I am advocating for the legislature to slow their rush to push through yet another piece of poorly written legislation on a highly contentious, complex issue.

This stands to deteriorate our families and our communities if we do not carefully examine the consequences of legalizing dangerous drugs that have high potential for abuse and severe psychological or physical dependence.



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