Ten years ago, when Oregon voters approved the state's landmark Medical Marijuana Act, they did so with assurances that only a handful of very ill people needed it -- perhaps 500 a year, supporters said at the time.
That turned out to be a false promise, as critics warned at the time. They appear to have correctly predicted that the new law would open the door for wider use of pot in Oregon by creating new legal defenses for the possession, use, cultivation and delivery of marijuana.
Statistics strongly suggest this. Today, nearly 16,000 Oregonians hold patient cards entitling them to use marijuana. Nearly 8,000 hold "caregiver cards" so they can possess it, and about 4,000 have permits to grow the plant, resulting in at least 19 tons of marijuana growing legally at any given time.
Not surprisingly, the rate of marijuana use by adult Oregonians is 50 percent higher than the national rate. Voters in 1998 may have thought they were showing compassion for a small number of terminally ill cancer patients who needed marijuana to alleviate their symptoms, but the law is clearly being abused in a big way.
This abuse is showing up in the workplace, where the Oregon drug test failure rate is 50 percent higher than the national rate. And the most prevalent reason for testing failure? Marijuana use -- 71 percent of all positive tests in Oregon, compared with 53 percent nationally.
The 2007 Legislature had a chance to address the workplace issue but fell short. A bill to make it easier for Oregon employers to enforce drug-free workplace policies, even against employees with valid medical marijuana cards, passed in the Senate but faltered in the House.
That was a sensible bill and deserves a second chance in the special session that begins today. Instead, however, the House Business and Labor Committee has put forth a much narrower bill that would give employers the option to regulate medical pot users in only the most dangerous of jobs. Link
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