United States: 2010: The Year of the GRASS
Green is their signature color. Medicinal marijuana gardeners throughout the state of Oregon enjoyed a plentiful harvest last fall, and look to 2010 as a year of growth, and change.
By Bonnie King, Salem-News
(SALEM, Ore.) - “After living through arrests in the past for growing marijuana, to be able to do it legally, it’s almost entirely stress-free compared to when it was illegal. So to be able to help the people that need this - it warms our hearts,” said Paul Stanford, Executive Director of The Hemp & Cannabis Foundation. The fear of breaking the law has stopped most people for seven decades from considering marijuana, or cannabis, to treat their ailments. That is no longer the rule of the day, as this medical marijuana garden clearly proves.
“Here in Oregon we have people coming from all over the country to take advantage of medical marijuana without the fear of being arrested. For most of them it is the chance to get off of debilitating narcotics and improve the quality of their life and slow the progression of truly scary degenerative diseases like multiple sclerosis and Parkinsons,” Stanford said.
There are nine basic conditions that qualify a patient for a medical marijuana permit from the state of Oregon. They include chronic pain, chronic nausea, AIDS, cancer, glaucoma, hepatitis, chronic muscle spasms and other spastic disorders, such as multiple sclerosis, seizure disorders, such as epilepsy, gastrointestinal disorders, such as IBS, Crohn's disease and the inability to eat, or patients who have medical treatments for other conditions that cause one of these conditions.
The Hemp and Cannabis Foundation, alone, has helped a total of nearly 100,000 patients in 41 different cities in eight states across America.
“We broke our record in terms of a single day of clinics, we had seven clinics in seven different cities, three here in Oregon, four in other states. We saw 210 patients in one day,” Stanford said, confirming the increasing popularity of Cannabis as the medication of choice.
Still, the law as it stands in Oregon today demands that each patient grow their own medicine, or assign a grower to do so. There is nowhere to purchase medicinal cannabis at this time; in fact, buying it at all is a crime. For some people, growing marijuana isn’t just a headache, it may be impossible considering the patient’s level of illness, access to reasonable gardening area, tools and supplies, the time and energy involved, and of course, their personal gardening abilities. To help resolve this problem for gardeners-to-be, there is a mentorship program ahead.
Stanford said, “We look forward to helping patients again, by making it where they don’t have to come to the doctor every year, to grow their own, and set up a distribution system through pharmacies so patients can get medicinal cannabis that’s highly potent, and need-specific for their ailment.”
The state’s most photographed medical marijuana garden is also a case study for future horticulturists. In the newly established THCF building, patients will learn to grow their medicine from the best instructors in Oregon, and beyond. Oregon NORML is working with THCF to ensure clients get all the hands-on training and educational materials they need to be fully informed.
“We have plants that we’ll be able to give patients so they can start their garden, and teach them in classes in this new office,” Stanford explained. “How to grow, and how to do it right, how to replicate what we’re doing in terms of maximizing the yield, and the quality at harvest. It’s just a dream come true.”
Replicating the job of these expert gardeners will be no small endeavor. For the patients who this garden belongs to, it is a very plentiful harvest. There was a lot of variety and choice this year, with 16 strains of cannabis, most of them award winning. Lemon Pledge is one variety that won NORML’s 2009 Oregon Medical Cannabis Award in two categories, a feather in the cap for its growers.
In this medicinal garden, 24 plants tipped the scales at nearly 125 pounds of usable marijuana, mostly large buds. One Green Goddess plant set a record producing over seven pounds on its own, with the average plant about four and a half pounds, which is more than a novice gardener can expect.
“There are different kinds of strains and compounds in cannabis that help different conditions, so we look forward to further quantifying that, making those products available directly to patients at cost, and see that sales to adults helps patients, and helps reestablish industrial hemp,” Paul Stanford said. “Our Oregon Cannabis Tax Act Petition will do that.“
The Oregon Cannabis Tax Act that Stanford refers to would comprehensively reform marijuana laws by regulating and taxing adult sales; licensing the cultivation of the drug for sale in adult-only businesses; allowing adults to grow their own and farmers to grow industrial hemp without license; and letting doctors prescribe untaxed cannabis to patients suffering from a variety of illnesses and injuries. The group will need 100,000 valid signatures by July 2, 2010 to qualify for Oregon’s November 2010 election.
Archaeologists say that cannabis was among the first crops purposely cultivated by human beings more than 6,000 years ago, perhaps the very first "crop".
Hemp is closely related to marijuana, but, unlike the plants you see here, hemp does not get anybody high. Hemp is also a member of the cannabis family, but is noticeably different from smokeable marijuana by its low THC content and weedy, fibrous appearance.
Oregon law specifies that industrial hemp must contain less than 0.3% THC. For comparison, according to Recreational Drugs Information (www.a1b2c3.com/drugs/), good commercial grade marijuana available to most users in 2007 had a THC content of about 5% to 10% and premium sinsemilla was about 10% to 20% THC.
In 2009, 28 states introduced or passed legislation to allow American farmers to research and grow hemp. Oregon became the 17th state to pass legislation favorable to hemp farming and the ninth state to remove legal barriers to farming the potentially lucrative crop in August, when Governor Kulongoski signed the bill into law.
"By signing SB 676 into law, which passed the Oregon Legislature with strong bi-partisan support, Governor Kulongoski has taken a proactive position allowing our farmers the right to grow industrial hemp, to provide American manufacturers with domestically-grown hemp, and to profit from that effort," commented Oregon state Sen. Floyd Prozanski (D), who sponsored the bill.
Oregon and North Dakota are the only states that do not require farmers to obtain federal permits from the DEA to grow hemp.
The hemp industry is actively being revived regardless of its obstacles.
A Change is in the Air & It Smells Like Weed
In October 2009, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced that the federal government would stop prosecuting medical marijuana users in states that had passed medical marijuana laws, such as Oregon, and as of now, 13 other states. New Jersey is about to become the 14th state to make medical marijuana legal. The State Legislature has approved the New Jersey Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act, and Governor Corzine has promised to sign it into law this week.
About two dozen states are considering bills ranging from medical marijuana to decriminalizing possession of small amounts of marijuana, and dozens of cities consider marijuana offenses a low law-enforcement priority.
January 12th, 2009 in a 4 to 3 vote, the California Assembly’s Public Safety Committee passed A.B. 390, legislation that would tax and regulate marijuana in a manner similar to alcohol. This is the first time in U.S. history that a state legislature has ever passed — or even considered — a proposal to make marijuana legal, taxed, and regulated.
The California bill will not progress any further this year due to the constraints of the legislative calendar but advocates praised today’s vote as a major milestone in ongoing efforts to end marijuana prohibition.
In 1998, Washington D.C. voters approved a referendum allowing possession and usage of medical marijuana. Republicans in Congress swiftly blocked the referendum and prevented D.C. from implementing the law for eleven years. That block has just been lifted, and the law has been put into effect.
Washington is one of four states where measures to legalize and regulate marijuana are on the ballot, and in Colorado, a judge said this week that cities wanting to get rid of all dispensaries could find themselves violating constitutional rights.
Perhaps the biggest milestone to date, the American Medical Association reversed a longtime position recently and urged the federal government to remove marijuana from Schedule One of the Controlled Substances Act, which equates it with heroin. This is likely the most progressive action ever demonstrated by the AMA on this subject.
“We’re working to completely end marijuana prohibition here in Oregon, and transfer our clinics into full service medical clinics,” Stanford explained. “And legalize, so anybody can grow marijuana, without a permit. And if you want to sell it, you’d have to get a license and sell it through state controlled, taxed and regulated facilities. Just like with alcohol.”
Some opponents say there's no upside to relaxing the laws on marijuana, that there's “nothing for society in it, there's nothing good for the country in it, there's nothing for the good of the economy in it”. These platform concerns are unsupported today, as there are a myriad of case studies, scientific research and expert testimony that prove otherwise.
With polls showing overwhelming support for medical marijuana, some are saying the writing is on the wall, and decriminalization of the herb is at hand.
Advocates say that when marijuana is legally regulated, industrial hemp will return to its rightful place in the U.S. agricultural economy.
In today’s world there is no more beating around the bush, marijuana legalization is the cornerstone of progressive change for the new decade, kicking off with 2010: The Year of the Grass.