BEND, Ore. - New legislation is changing the way Oregon views and deals with medical marijuana, allowing growers and dispensaries to charge for the drug -- and the state to collect taxes. But other impacts have some concerned.
Just eight months after voters defeated a bill legalizing pot, lawmakers last week passed a bill that no longer regards marijuana as a controlled substance. Instead, it's now treated more like alcohol.
The bill passed by the Legislature regulates marijuana dispensaries. While many details remain to be worked out, the new system will allow growers to be reimbursed for pot by dispensaries, which will then charge patients.
Supporters of the new law say the market will set the appropriate prices for growers' labor and other costs. But critics fear it will lead to widespread abuse of the medical-marijuana system.
"My concern about this is that it's yet one more step in our community putting more marijuana out there," Barb Stoefen, president of the Meth Action Coalition, said Monday.
Advocates say the system will work by legitimizing state medical marijuana dispensaries currently operating in a legal gray area.
Central Oregon dispensaries say it won't change what they've been doing, other than to allow growers to recoup their costs.
Another bill, which died in committee when lawmakers adjourned, would have taxed the legally sold marijuana at $35 per ounce, with a sizable portion of the revenues going to the state Common School Fund.
Though taxation is off the table there are still many unanswered details about implementation of the new law.
But advocates say the law that passed was a needed step forward.
"I think it's a great thing, because hopefully people can come and get clean medicine, instead of getting it off the street," said Sunday Tomlinson of Bend's Best Bud.
Still, opponents believe it's children that are hurt when marijuana is legitimized.
Stoefen says greater availability means more young people will use it.
She says kids don't see pot as a bad thing - which contributes to the increased use among young people.
Supporters say the law won't change the way kids view marijuana and likely won't change anyone's perception of the drug.
Sunday Tomlinson says she's just here to help people.
"We help people in wheelchairs," she said. "We help the guy who's legs got crushed from a fallen tree and he can't walk any more."
Stoefan says her concern is children. She says she doesn't want to demonize marijuana and recognizes it may have its place medicinally for some people.