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Oregon Considers Reinstatement of MMJ Registration Discounts

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Authorities in the state of Oregon are in discussion about the restoration of discounts on medical marijuana fees for low income patients and those relying on Social Security. An advisory panel met yesterday to figure out the specifics and also work out the logistics of the increased fee schedule expected to take effect in October.

The Oregon state budget contains language approving increased medical marijuana administration fees in order to raise $6.4 million which would be channeled into funds for clean water and school health programs. Originally, the legislature wanted to double the basic fee for a state medical marijuana card, and axe most of the available discounts.

According to Bob Wolfe, a member of the Oregon Marijuana Policy Initiative, after medical marijuana activists were able to use phone calls and email to express their outrage to the state legislature, those in charge agreed to consider reducing the overall registration fee increase and putting the discounts for people currently on food stamps, the Oregon Health Plan and Social Security back in place. As well, the legislature agreed to consider reducing the fee charged to designated growers.

Wolfe said advocates like himself were able to participate in talks to “…change the form of increases to protect the most vulnerable patients.”

The current registration fees in Oregon are $100 a year, though low income patients (those on Medicaid, Social Security or on food stamps) only pay $20.

The new fees under consideration would be $180/year for regular patients, $80/year for those on food stamps and Medicaid, and $40 for those on Social Security.

In addition, it would coust $25 to replace a lost registration card, and $50 to change the caregiver, grower, or grow site attached to a patient’s registration, as well as a fee of $50 for growers who are not also patients.

Christine Stone, speaking on behalf of the Oregon Health Authority, said that the fee increases can be modified so long as the $6.4 million in the budget is met. She also said that the advisory panel considered some changes to their latest proposal, and that actual increases will be subject to public hearings before they go into force around the first of October.

Likely in anticipation of the coming fee increases, new registrations and renewals rose sharply in June. As of the first of July, Oregon had 49,222 registered medical marijuana patients, 25,634 non-patient caregivers, and another 4,581 applications still pending.

MMJ advocates have suggested that revenues could be increased if there were more staff available to process the outstanding applications.

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Brief: Legal MMJ Moves Forward in Delaware

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Great news for the people of Delaware: the state Senate there has approved a bill allowing the medical use of cannabis in The First State, with 18 yea votes and only 3 nays. That vote was on Thursday, March 31st.

Senator Robert Venables (representing Laurel) told the press that using marijuana for medicinal reasons will help ease the unncessary suffering of cancer patients and others.

This bill would give authorized users of medical marijuana legal permission to possess up to six ounces of the drug, which would be obtainable from “compassion centers” which much be registered with the state.

The bill now moves to the Delaware House of Representatives for their review or approval, and then, if it’s approved, to the governor for signature or veto.

Here’s hoping the other half of the Delaware legislature does the right thing, and gives this bill resounding support.

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MMJ in Hawaii

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Chronic patients in Hawaii may have cause for new hope

While medical marijuana has been legal in Hawaii for eleven years now, the state lacks any kind of dispensary system, which leaves patients there to acquire their weed either by buying it on the black market, or by growing their own.

Last month, however, state Senator Kalani English, of Maui, introduced SB1458, a bill designed to create what was he described as a “… comprehensive five-year medical marijuana distribution pilot program in an unspecified county.”

English explained, at the time, that he proposed the program because he was seeing too many suffering patients asking where they could get their medicine. He added that he had to make the bill “drip with money” in order to appeal to money-conscious legislative colleagues.

Under the terms of the bill dispensaries (which English referred to as “compassion centers” would be taxed, but they’d also allow patients visiting from other MMJ-friendly states to buy temporary permits for the duration of their visit to Hawaii, at a cost of $100, which may make Hawaii the first American marijuana tourist destination.

The bill passed the Senate at the end of March, and passed two House committees (Health and Safety) as well, with a hearing scheduled for the House Judiciary Committee today.

Last week, a call went out asking people for pro-MMJ testimony. If the bill passes today’s hearing, it will then go before the full House of Representatives, and then on to a joint hearing with both the Hawaii Senate and the House.

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Vermont Considers Dispensaries

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Like Hawaii, the state of Vermont has had medical marijuana laws on the books for several years, but has left patients to either grow their own cannabis or buy it from illegal sources.

Also like Hawaii, Vermont is considering the creation of dispensary system this year. In fact a bill allowing the creation of such businesses has already been introduced into the state legislature and has passed the state Senate Government Operations Committee and is scheduled for a full Senate hearing sometime this week.

The bill, which was sponsored (in part) by Senator Richard Sears (D-Bennington) includes restrictions that make it fairly conservative, especially when compared to the systems in place in states like California. Among them is a requirement that patients have appointments in order to buy cannabis from dispensaries.

There would also be a limit on the number of dispensaries allowed in Vermont. While the current language in the bill calls for a maximum of two dispensaries, it will be raised to four on the recommendation of Vermont Public Safety Commissioner Keith Flynn.

The change would increase revenue to the state as well as make it easier for patients.

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