SALEM, Ore. (AP) — The state Senate voted Wednesday to impose stricter regulations on Oregon's medical marijuana program as lawmakers get ready for the legalization of pot for recreational use.
Senators overwhelmingly supported the measure 29-1, but now it goes the House, where it's viewed with much more skepticism from key lawmakers who staunchly oppose a provision allowing cities and counties to ban marijuana stores in their boundaries.
Supporters of the bill say Oregon's minimally regulated medical marijuana program produces far too much of the drug, and much of the excess ends up on the black market. They say reining it in is crucial to creating a market for retail marijuana.
"Right now, under this regressive federal system where it's illegal to transport it across state lines, we're sitting on this huge supply of medical marijuana," said Rep. Ginny Burdick, a Portland Democrat who was instrumental in crafting the bill. "The stuff that's now going to the black market, let's get that funneled to the recreational market."
The bill would impose new regulations, including limits on the number of plants at a single grow site, an inventory tracking and reporting system, inspection requirements and an Oregon residency mandate for growers and patients. Those provisions are broadly supported.
The controversy arises from an option for local governments to refuse permission for marijuana businesses to operate, including stores, testing or processing facilities, and grow sites. Democrats, particularly those in the House, fear the provision would make it too difficult for patients to get the drug.
"I don't think at this point we should deny patients access to medicine," said Sen. Floyd Prozanski, the lone dissenter in the Senate.
In the House, the measure will go to the Ways and Means Committee, led by co-chair Peter Buckley, an Ashland Democrat who has been among the most vocal critics of the local opt-out in the Senate bill. Still, Speaker Tina Kotek, D-Portland, does not want to see the bill die.
"The speaker believes regulations to the medical marijuana program are necessary in order for the successful implementation of Measure 91, and she supports the ongoing effort to address both issues this session," said Lindsey O'Brien, a spokeswoman for Kotek. Measure 91 was last year's ballot initiative legalizing recreational marijuana.