State says medical marijuana program needs more oversight

The Oregon Medical Marijuana Program doesn't have reliable, independent ways to verify grow site addresses, and it doesn't do enough inspections of grow sites, according to a report by the Oregon Health Authority.

SALEM — Oregon’s reporting and tracking of medical marijuana has been “inadequate and inaccurate,” increasing the risk of medical marijuana being diverted into the black market, a new state report says.

The Oregon Medical Marijuana Program doesn’t have reliable, independent ways to verify grow site addresses, and it doesn’t do enough inspections of grow sites, either, according to a report by the Oregon Health Authority.

There are more than 20,000 medical marijuana grow sites in the state. But last year, the medical marijuana program inspected just 58 sites.

Registrants also comply with reporting requirements at low rates — in 2017, monthly compliance rates among growers ranged from 26 percent to 42 percent.

The program has also had problems “ensuring the appropriate and verified destruction” of medical marijuana products that fail lab tests for pesticides and other chemicals.

Oregon voters legalized medicinal use of marijuana in 1998. The Oregon Health Authority says some of the problems with Oregon’s system have existed since the system got up and running in 1999.

But some of the problems were made worse by changes to the market after Oregonians voted to legalize recreational cannabis in 2014.

Oregon Health Authority Director Patrick Allen, who requested the report, said in a statement that the agency is working to improve tracking growers, enforcing rules and “making sure product that fails testing has been destroyed.”

“More than 40,000 Oregonians depend on medical marijuana to treat their qualifying medical conditions,” Allen said. “We are taking steps to maintain the integrity of Oregon’s medical marijuana program and make sure medical products reach the patients who need them.”

The agency claims “chronic underfunding and understaffing” limit the medical marijuana program’s ability to properly regulate medicinal marijuana.

Anthony Taylor, president of Compassionate Oregon, a patient advocacy group for medical cannabis, declined to comment late Thursday because he had not had a chance to review the report.

The Capital Bureau is a collaboration between EO Media Group and Pamplin Media Group.

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