By Anthony Taylor
The just released report–Oregon’s Medical Marijuana Program Operations and Compliance Assessment May 2018–does make a fairly accurate assessment of the Oregon Medical Marijuana Program and its service to patients, but it fails to address, or even grasp, the underlying problems. It is because the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) has been so derelict in its duties throughout the history of the program. It’s lack of attention to patients, it’s denigration of patients and it’s work, often, at cross purposes to serving those patients is why it finds itself in this position today.
The unwritten policy–that the OHA will not advocate for the OMMP and the patients it serves–has left it on the sidelines. It should have had a frank discussion with the legislature over the impact of the changes it made over last five years and the effect it would have on patients, and what should be done to enhance patient access rather than stifle it or, in the minds of some, destroy it altogether.
OHA’s basic lack of understanding of how the program works on the ground, how it actually serves patients–after two decades of serving hundreds of thousands of Oregonians–has led to this breakdown. OHA’s basic neglect of the program and the needs of the patients has left Oregonians with a system so broken, so expensive, and so over burdened with regulation that it is simply collapsing in on itself. Now patients worry about finding a grower, or to continue to try and meet the ever-rising costs of being a patient in a program that is still, to this day, serving thousands of Oregonians.
A basic misunderstanding and/or lack of belief that cannabis is even medicine at all still plagues the OHA and has left it struggling to set policy around the nuances of cannabis use as medicine. They have been unable to address the issue of Oregonians with cannabis in their system that face a standardized medical care system that does not understand cannabis and its effect on patients. While some are sympathetic to the needs of these patients, and the efficacy of cannabis use to mitigate their symptoms, their health care organization administrative policies prohibit them from prescribing appropriate medications or procedures. These policies do not serve these patients but rather discriminates against them, and OHA has been silent.
Misunderstanding issues facing patients in the workplace, in professional careers, and in public service has led to policy that has only increased costs for patients and their growers and has limited their access to the quality medicines they have received nearly for free for many years.
OHA stood on the sidelines and watched while the State of Oregon destroyed a basic tenet of the medical cannabis program. So long to the gold standard Oregon set for other states when developing their own programs. That tenet–the right of patients to produce their own medicines and to designate someone else to do it for them if they cannot do it themselves–was taken apart piece by piece.
The program needs to be torn down and rebuilt again so it actually serves Oregon cannabis patients in the same manner it serves the health care needs of other Oregonians in its charge, with respect and without discrimination.
In the end, OHA’s stewardship of the OMMP has been so incompetent that it could be considered complicit.
– Anthony Taylor is the President of Compassionate Oregon and has unique access and insights into Oregon’s lawmaking process, much of which takes place in the Capitol building, near the corners of Church and State streets in Salem. Everything shared here are personal opinions and not in his official capacity as President of Compassionate Oregon or the Oregon Cannabis Commission, on which Anthony now serves.
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