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Vote to expand medicinal marijuana qualifies for Ore. ballot

PORTLAND, Ore. (BP)–A measure to expand Oregon’s medicinal marijuana law has gained enough signatures to qualify for a statewide vote in November.

The measure would increase the amounts of marijuana patients could possess, according to the Statesman Journal in Salem, Ore., July 20, and it would authorize dispensaries to supply patients who can’t obtain the drug.

No formal opposition to the proposal has been established, but law enforcement officials and others who opposed the original 1998 initiative are expected to speak up, the Statesman Journal said.

“We do not have a single example of adverse health consequences,” the paper quoted chief sponsor John Sajo as saying. “We have thousands of patients who say it relieves their suffering and improves the quality of their lives.”

Under the new law, patients registered with the state could grow 10 plants — as opposed to seven now — and possess up to one pound instead of one ounce. The initiative also would authorize licensed dispensaries that could distribute marijuana and expand categories of professionals who can prescribe the drug.

Supporters of the measure say the current law is not working for many of the 9,000 cardholders because they’re running out of the plant before they can get a new supply, according to FoxNews.com.

Opponents of the initiative, including the Bush administration, say such measures are more about legalizing marijuana than about helping sick people. Only 7 percent of cardholders in the state are suffering from cancer, glaucoma or AIDS, Fox said.

Eight states currently have medical marijuana laws, but Oregon’s would be by far the most liberal if the expansion passes.

Barrett Duke, vice president for public policy with the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, told Baptist Press in previous discussions about medicinal marijuana that many supporters of such measures seek eventually to make marijuana legal for everyone.

“In reality,” Duke said, “what they will be voting on is whether to open the door further to the complete legalization of marijuana and to increase the already near-epidemic level of drug abuse our nation is experiencing. … It is certain that the real motive of many of the backers of these measures is no less than the legalization of the possession and use of marijuana by anyone.”

Duke also characterized marijuana as a gateway drug likely to lead to more harmful substance abuse.

“What is more, as any former or current drug user knows, marijuana is only the starting point,” he said. “It is the gateway that has led to the destruction of the lives and futures of millions of people who moved on to other drugs in search of greater highs.”

He also noted, “If everyone smoked marijuana at home, we would see increased accidents, accidents at work and increased crime as people got addicted to drugs and turned to crime. Everything else is affected by decisions people make in private.”

There are more effective, non-addictive drugs available to control pain as compared to marijuana, which is “a mind-altering drug [that] interferes with a person’s thought processes.”

Promoters of medical marijuana use “have trivialized the suffering of those in severe chronic pain by supporting the open distribution of marijuana …,” he said. “I regret that so many people have bought the lie that marijuana is an essentially harmless drug, akin to aspirin.”

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