Come October 1, medical marijuana users could face a steep jump in permit fees. The $100 increase (making the price now $200) may be a key way for Oregon's cash-strapped health care budget to gain a needed $7 million to fund other health programs. The bill awaits budget approval before going into effect the start of next month.
While this may come as a bonus to Oregon Health Authority, it could further perpetuate the problem with those who abuse the medical permit system. Most of the card holders who have a legitimate medical reason to use marijuana are financially worse off than those who use their permit recreationaly.
"It's always a struggle, especially in this economic time," says Madeline Martinez of the nonprofit marijuana advocate NORML. "So many patients are low income, it's difficult to ask them to put even more money into it."
The bill could also cut the $20 permit discount for Oregon food stamp cardholders.
Despite the hefty price, this could be a step forward in legislation legalizing all marijuana use in the state. It's currently illegal in Oregon to sell or purchase pot, but a few organizations have found (or tried to find) a way around it. Local group Portland Medical Cannabis Club accepts donations towards their nonprofit in exchange for marijuana — a loophole that essentially allows them to sell it. Aloha's Wake N Bake Cannabis cafe, on the other hand, was shut down last month after officials found the owner had been straight-up selling marijuana.
But in tandem with this potential price bump, the president of Oregon's sheriff association, Tom Bergin, announced his discontent with the state's current medical marijuana laws this week. Bergin called the Oregon Medical Marijuana Program (OMMP) “out of control” as 90 percent of of legal cardholders use medicinal cannabis to treat pain but not for cancer and glaucoma, which she says was the initial intention of the program. This, along with other police officer complaints, has led to Representative Andy Olson, R-Albany, reconsidering a past dismissed bill that could make it virtually impossible for doctors to prescribe marijuana to patients.