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Concerns at medical marijuana forum

Marion County Commissioner Patti Milne
Marion County Commissioner Patti Milne

Of the Keizertimes

It’s an issue that caused a buzz at Keizer Civic Center Tuesday.

Early Tuesday morning, the Marion County Public Safety Coordinating Council hosted a community forum on medical marijuana at the Keizer Civic Center. About 60 people attended the forum.

The forum was timed well: House Bill 3460, signed into law last summer, goes into affect March 1 and establishes rules for a medical marijuana registration system.

Last week, Marion County Board of Commissioners passed a resolution opposing the legalization of the operation of medical marijuana clinics in the county and the legalization of marijuana for recreational use.

“This is an important decision,” said commissioner Patti Milne, chair of the coordinating council. “There are many, many complicated facets to this. House Bill 3460 could change the landscape in our county. We’re gotten a number of phone calls at the county asking what we’re going to be doing. That’s what we’re doing here today. What can we do to respond to the community situation?”

John Andrade from Bio-Med Testing pointed to the difference in how the human body processes marijuana versus alcohol.

“In an hour, a person will metabolize the alcohol and it’ll be gone from the system,” Andrade said. “You’re stone cold sober in an hour. It passes through the system quickly. Marijuana, however, is stored in our fat. If I smoked it right now, it goes into my fat calls and it would stay there, waiting to metabolize. If I’m taking it Saturday or Sunday, I’m not necessarily ready for work on Monday. The marijuana tissue half life is seven days. That means it takes seven days for half of that marijuana to leave the body. It’s completely different from alcohol.”

Andrade also spoke as the concerned father of a 2-year-old daughter.

“As a father, this concerns me that my daughter can go to a friend’s house whose parents use marijuana,” he said. “That bothers me. Please, let’s at least try to change the message. We need to change the message that marijuana is safe.”

Marion County Sheriff Jason Myers said there are multiple negative consequences to HB 3460.

“This allows dispensaries to open around the state,” Myers said. “That causes grave concerns for the law enforcement community. Expanding the use will harm the general welfare because of potential use among youth. There’s also a higher burden on the health care system.”

Walt Beglau, district attorney for Marion County, expressed concerns with HB 3460 as well.

“There is a lack of local control and a failure to align with federal law,” Beglau said. “We need to bring our communities up to speed.”

Beglau predicted a decrease in livability and more marijuana use due to the bill.

“If you use it they will come and we’ll be cleaning it up at your expense,” he said.

Milne emphasized the need for the community as a whole to hear about the issue.

“My plea is we don’t need to rush to make a mistake,” she said. “To complicate it with recreational use, to rush and make decisions that put families at risk, there’s no reason to do this. We need more forums like this to talk and listen to each other. This issue is far too important to rush when there is so much potential for damage.”

Kelly Fabry, who runs the PGN (Patient Grower Network) Lodge at 4090 Cherry Avenue in Keizer, called the forum one-sided.

“I own two businesses,” Fabry said. “I’m a medical patient and I’m a cancer survivor. There has been a hysteria created around this subject. We don’t want marijuana to be legal for everyone. If we don’t give patients safe, legal access, they will have no choice but to go to the Fred Meyer parking lot to get it.

“The truth of the matter is, medical marijuana patients in this state are treated like criminals,” she added. “We’re not treated like members of the community. I do not agree with recreational marijuana, but there is a strong need for medical access.”

Fabry also pointed out the difficulty in opening a lodge, which she did in 2011.

“I can open a bar, a sex shop, almost any other type of business, easier than a dispensary,” she said. “We’re not criminals. We’re not lowlifes.”