Oregon voters legalized medical marijuana in 1998, but the legislation only allowed patients to grow for themselves or a designated caregiver to grow their medicine for them. Now, Governor John Kitzhaber has legalized medical marijuana dispensaries in the state.
On Wednesday, Kitzhaber signed a bill that gives the state the authority to license, inspect, and audit stores that sell medical marijuana.
The state already has dozens of collectives, but they are not sanctioned by the state. Operating in a legal gray area, some have been the target of law enforcement in recent years. However, a recent study showed that the lack of regulation in dispensaries led to a surging black market in Oregon.
The Oregon Health Authority will draft new rules for the dispensary registry. The agency is currently determining how the program will move forward.
Proponents of medical marijuana dispensaries in Oregon believe that the existing businesses should be protected by the state, while opponents believe that dispensaries make it easier for people to abuse the system.
Oregon voters rejected a similar measure, Measure 74, in 2010 with 55.8% of the population opposing the implementation of medical marijuana collectives.