'Socialize' it? Oregon may grow, tax and sell medical marijuana
Stephen C. Webster
Published: Thursday March 12, 2009

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Submitted legislation would impose $98-per-ounce tax on cannabis

In most states, the issue of medical marijuana is not on any legislative docket.

In Oregon however, a state which already allows medical marijuana, socializing the weed is being pitched as a bipartisan cause célèbre.

Maybe socializing is the wrong word.

"House Bill 3247 would direct the state to establish and operate a marijuana production facility," reported Oregon's KGW-TV. "The state would control potency and pharmacy distribution."

Okay, so maybe it isn't.

If the legislation, which is currently in committee review, becomes law, the state would take control of Oregon's booming cannabis industry, bringing growing and sales under the public domain.

Oregon's current medical cannabis program allows care providers and patients to grow their own supply, but both Republicans and Democrats in the state feel the system is not working. Their solution is to bankroll the bud on the public dime and charge a weighty tax -- $98 per ounce -- every time an approved patient makes a purchase.

"Many patients have no assurance that their marijuana is not laced with pesticides or other toxic chemicals," Rep. Jim Thompson (R-Dallas), told The Oregonian. "If passed into law, this legislation will implement safe standards to dispense the drug through a tightly-controlled system."

"Rep. Ron Maurer, R-Grants Pass, and Rep. Chris Harker, D-Beaverton, are also sponsors of the bill," the paper reported. "Now that's what we call bipartisanship."

"Radical? For sure," said Oregon Live's Janie Har. "Even California, a state where dope dispensaries run rampant, doesn't have government workers growing pot."

"Private growers have been accused of illegally selling pot to non-cardholders, and other grow sites have been targeted by burglars and robbers," reported Oregon station KATU.

"There are growing concerns that private grow sites are being misused for illegal marijuana sales, threatening the safety and well-being of legitimate participants in the program," Rep. Chris Harker, (D-Beaverton), told the station. "(The bill) takes medical marijuana off the streets and into a safer and more secure environment."

In 2004, Oregon voters rejected a similar measure which would have created state-run cannabis distribution facilities. According to the state's Department of Human Services, about 21,000 have been approved for the medical cannabis program.

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