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Opinion: Oregon Needs to Care about Sick, Disabled Cannabis Patients

The Oregon Medical Marijuana Program (OMMP) has benefitted thousands of patients, but a recent report clearly demonstrates that too little emphasis has been placed on the well being of patients and they are unnecessarily suffering.
July 19, 2018

Understandably, Oregon officials are concerned about federal interference in our state's medical and recreational programs after Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinded the Obama administration's Cole Memo that allowed state cannabis programs to operate under a set of federal guidelines. However, the state's concerns regarding any potential federal action have now gone too far as too much attention has been placed on acquiescing to the Trump administration and too little attention is being placed on the needs of Oregon's patients suffering from sick and debilitating medical conditions.

The recently released Oregon Medical Marijuana Program Operations and Compliance Assessment spent too much time focusing on the lack of inspections and too much space congratulating the program on providing safe access to patients. Over 20,000 patients have left the state’s medical program and not once does the report address that issue. Overly burdensome regulations have pushed out many compassionate growers and low-income patients, but the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) hasn’t ever considered the needs of the people in the program.

OMMP administrators have been erroneously claiming that they can’t advocate for the OMMP, a program that has been shown to generate revenue for the state and studies have revealed that access to cannabis decreases health care costs and opioid usage. It is time that OHA and OMMP bureaucrats advocate for the needs of all patients in Oregon, including those that use medical cannabis as recommended by their doctor.

“Oregonians have proven to be national leaders on sensible cannabis policies. Compassion for patients has been a cornerstone of Oregon’s marijuana laws since the Oregon Medical Marijuana Act was passed in 1998,” states Anthony Johnson Director of New Approach Oregon and the Yes on 91 campaign to legalize marijuana. “When over 56% of voters passed Measure 91 in 2014, they didn’t vote to dismantle our successful medical program. The Oregon Health Authority needs to do a better job following the will of the voters and meeting the needs of patients.”

New Approach Oregon is asking the Oregon Health Authority to put patients first. Survey patients in the OMMP and those that have left the OMMP to find out what they need to improve their lives and alleviate their serious medical conditions. Politics are changing rapidly at the national level. Oregon should not be putting the wants of Jeff Sessions and Donald Trump over the needs of Oregon patients.