By Nathalie Hardy • Columnist • 

Vocal crowd assembles for pot debate

Compassionate Oregon, a political action committee advocating for medical marijuana, hosted the forum. It featured a question-and-answer session with Yamhill County Sheriff Jack Crabtree, Yamhill County Commissioner Mary Stern, Dayton City Councilor Annette Frank and medical marijuana grower Andrew Gwin.

Compassionate Oregon Director Anthony Taylor served as moderator. He said drawing more than 100 people makes it clear the issue is important to the community.

Clapping, groaning and body language suggested the crowd was fairly evenly split between those embracing the new law and those not.

The most vocal opposition came from Crabtree, who served on the 13-member state’s Rules Advisory Committee for the enabling legislation, House Bill 3460. He termed the law “fatally flawed.”

Crabtree identified 11 points of concern. He urged decision makers to “stop and take a deep breath,” saying, “We need to do this right.”

He said the law is starting out broken and the Legislature apparently doesn’t intend to fix it during this month’s short even-year session.

First, he said it only funds two office staffers and two field inspectors to monitor up to 300 dispensaries around the state. He said the Oregon Health Authority estimates each inspector can adequately manage only 35 to 70 dispensaries, leaving the state woefully short.

By law, the Health Authority will begin accepting applications March 3. Presumably, a number of dispensaries will be operational by mid-year, underlining the sheriff’s concern.

“There are some flaws in it,” Taylor responded. “But they’re going to let it work for a little while and see what happens.”

One area of common ground for the panelists was the need to protect children from access. Particular concern was expressed with a line of THC-infused food products called “medibles,” which are often packaged to mimic gummy bears, candy bars or caramel corn.

Gwin said many patients can’t smoke marijuana because of respiratory problems, but there are other alternatives less likely to attract children. He mentioned capsules containing hash oil.

“You can’t protect me from myself,” said one vocal proponent, a marijuana cardholder who identified himself as a parent. “It comes down to basic adultness. You have to be an adult.”

“It’s unfortunate, but we have dumb adults,” Frank responded.

One issue for elected officeholders is the current disconnect between federal law, which continued to make manufacture, possession and use of marijuana illegal, and state law, which now makes it legal.

“When three of us were sworn in, we took an oath to uphold state and federal law,” Stern said. “We’ve been put in a conflict. Put yourself in my shoes. We’re in an untenable position.

“I understand the compassionate side of this,” Stern said. “But I also worry about the public safety impact as well.”

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