Oregon's 55,000 medical marijuana users will soon be allowed to purchase their pot from a store.
Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber signed into law Wednesday a bill that legalizes marijuana dispensaries. The bill narrowly passed in the closing days of the legislative session last month over strong objections.
Critics fear dispensaries will put marijuana in the hands of people seeking it for recreation, not medical treatment. The governor acknowledged the controversy in a statement but said the bill will allow safe access to cannabis for legal users.
That's an argument made by supporters such as lobbyist Geoff Sugerman. He says many patients can't grow their own and don't know anyone who will grow it for them. "Even though they are possessing a card, the only option they have had in the past would be to go to the black market."
Sugerman estimates there are close to 200 medical marijuana dispensaries already open in Oregon. This law will legitimize them. It comes as marijuana advocates are building support for a 2014 measure that would legalize recreational marijuana use in the state.
Washington voters approved a similar measure last year.
On the Web:
HB 3460: Medical marijuana dispensaries - Oregon Legislature
Oregon Medical Marijuana Program - Oregon Health Authority