Clackamas County officials worried about impact of drug
Four years ago, Lindsey Rinehart was a zombie, barely moving from her couch. The former Idaho resident had been suffering from multiple sclerosis for years and took 22 pills a day to manage the pain.
That, she says, was before she discovered medical marijuana.
I have my life back, Rinehart says. I can hug my kids.
Having moved to Oregon to gain legal access to marijuana, Rinehart is spearheading
the states first initiative campaign against a moratorium imposed on medical marijuana dispensaries.
Clackamas County commissioners unanimously passed the moratorium April 24 after Senate Bill 1531 was signed into law, allowing moratoria with criminal penalties until May 1, 2015. Across Oregon, 146 cities and 26 counties have passed such moratoria, with Portland, Bend and Eugene as notable exceptions.
To repeal Clackamas Countys moratorium, Rinehart and her petitioners have to collect at least 9,378 signatures by Aug. 6 to get their question on the ballot for the November election. It is widely expected that at that time voters will also be deciding on Measure 53, a recreational marijuana law.
Clackamas County commissioners are worried about crime, addiction and availability of the drug to minors. Commission Chair John Ludlow says even the marijuana tax revenue proposed by Measure 53 will not make up for the impact to the county.
Were going to endure a lot of problems with addiction and with enforcement and we will not get our proportional share from the state of Oregon, Ludlow said.
Commissioner Jim Bernard says he wants a permitting process in order to be able to close down irresponsible dispensaries.
If OLCC says yes, and our sheriff says no, we should be able to deny them, Bernard says.
Rinehart says she has heard the commissioners concerns and included them in the ballot initiative. The petition includes a $250 permit, hours of operation, signage and location requirements for dispensaries.
There are four dispensaries that would like to open in Clackamas County. Rinehart is the manager responsible for The 45th Parallel Group at 16631 S.E. 82nd Drive, near Interstate 205 in unincorporated Clackamas County. She says that even though the dispensary never opened the moratorium was passed a week before they planned to open would-be patients come by every day asking for medication.
They dont want to get high, Rinehart said. They want to get out of pain.
Patients need safe access
At a recent meeting of volunteer petitioners in the Lents neighborhood of Portland, children play with bubbles and everyone eats from a giant bag of Doritos. Bongs, pipes and pro-marijuana T-shirts are everywhere. The gathering is casual, but the adults grow serious and somber as they talk about the impact medical marijuana has had on their lives.
Patricia Rodriguez, a marijuana activist who moved from Clackamas County to Portland in part due to issues with access, says she used to go to a methodone clinic down the road from 45th Parallel. Years of surgeries had left her addicted to pain pills and Rodriguez says she served time in prison because in her addiction she would do anything to get more drugs.
Now that she is able to use less-addictive cannabis to control her pain, she says, Why would I want to break the law?
Nearby, Kori Hess says she is a different person since discovering medical marijuana. The Beaverton resident has lost 345 pounds and overcome an addiction to pain pills.
I wanted to die last summer, Hess says. This summer, she plans to marry her girlfriend and have fun.
Antony Castillo, a comedian and actor who often has these type of pro-cannabis gatherings at his house, says he was taking Percocet and Vicodin for a back injury for years after he left the U.S. Navy. He repeats what many others say: That medical marijuana is different from recreational use it doesnt get you high and its often eaten or applied topically rather than smoked.
Im a young professional, Castillo said, so I cant be loopy, but I do need the pain relief.
Rinehart says these stories are typical of those she hears. Patients are adults, seniors
and even children with cancer, seizures, brain injuries, arthritis and an array of other
There are 4,380 registered medical marijuana users in Clackamas County, the fifth-highest. Statewide, there are nearly 60,000. The majority of cardholders have been diagnosed with severe pain.
The state gives us access to that medicine no matter where we live because we can go to Walgreens no matter where we live, says Rinehart, who argues that marijuana should not be treated differently than any other medication.
Patients need safe access. Period, she says. Patients are why the program exists.
Without patients, there is no program.