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Oregon medical marijuana advocates are seeking to secure a November ballot measure to create a system in which state-licensed pot growers would distribute their crops under new marijuana dispensary laws.
According to the Associated Press, backers of the initiative have turned in 61,000 petition signatures in hopes of qualifying the issue for the ballot. A total of 82,769 valid signatures are needed to qualify the measure, and backers have until July to collect the remainder.
Current Oregon law allows registered patients to grow up to six mature marijuana plants or designate a grower to do it for them. But many patients don't want to do either. They would prefer to work directly with marijuana dispensaries.
The Obama administration's decision not to interfere in states' medical marijuana laws, as previously discussed has helped to fuel this new citizens' initiative.
Sponors of the initiative say the program would cover its own cost and be funded by license fees and taxes on growers and dispensaries. It would raise between $10 million and $40 million per year for the state to spend on other health programs.
Polling done in December 2008 showed that about 59 percent of Oregonians would support the measure, initiative sponsors say.
Oregon is one of 13 states that have legalized medical marijuana. The New Jersey Legislature also recently approved a bill that would make it the 14th state to allow chronically ill patients access to marijuana for medical reasons.
Of the 13 states that have legalized medical marijuana, five of them - including California - make provision for dispensaries where patients can get the pot. But as previously discussed, the Los Angeles City Council has been weighing marijuana dispensary rules -- maybe even capping the number of dispensaries in the city.
Oregon's current medical marijuana program was enacted by voters in 1998.
Some law enforcement officials are opposed to any new expansion of Oregon's program including marijunana dispensary laws. They cite a spike in the number of pot busts involving growers who have received state permission to cultivate a small amount of marijuana for medical use but who grow more than the law allows and sell it illegally on the street.
Backers argue that Oregon's law needs to be updated so that all qualifying patients have convenient access to quality marijuana.