Although Measure 74, a proposed law to create a state-regulated medical marijuana dispensary system, was voted down last month, the medical pot movement has been increasingly active in Bend. Just this week, a medical marijuana club and a full-time medical marijuana clinic opened here in town.
Central Oregon Alternative Therapy (COAT) is planning to open this week in a strip mall location at 2600 Division Street and will operate as a private medical marijuana club for cardholders only. COAT co-organizer Chris Smith described the operation as a "patient-to-patient" interface where cardholders will be on hand to distribute small amounts of medical marijuana in return for a donation. The club requires a paid membership and only members will be allowed to receive marijuana. This is the first organization of this kind in Deschutes County, but similar clubs exist in southern Oregon and the Portland area.
As of October 1, the Oregon Department of Human Services reported that there were 1,738 registered cardholders in Deschutes County, giving it one of the highest cardholder per capita ratios of any county in the state.
Supporters say that the latest move does not, however, represent a free-for-all approach.
COAT is not, Smith says, a dispensary, where cardholders can purchase marijuana outright. However, the Oregon Medical Marijuana Program (OMMP) allows patients to reimburse their growers for the supplies and utilities required to produce marijuana, which opens the door for clubs like COAT. Other costs like labor and transportation cannot be reimbursed.
"A dispensary would have had a lot of medicine on hand," says Smith, "The maximum amount of medicine on hand [for us] is what would be allowable for one person."
The total amount of usable marijuana that a medical cardholder can possess is 24 ounces, which is the maximum that would be on hand at COAT at any time, says Smith.
Smith and his fellow organizers have spoken with both Bend police and the Deschutes County District Attorney's office about the club and say they've been told that their plans for COAT do not violate OMMP laws. The marijuana won't be in plain sight, the club will not be open after dark and Smith stresses that only OMMP cardholders will be allowed to enter.
"Somebody has to go first and it might as well be someone who's going to be safe and responsible. We're not trying to open a dope house," says Smith, a 35-year-old local business owner and Marine Corps veteran.
Also this week, Bend's first full-time medical marijuana and education clinic opened on Revere Avenue. Mothers Against Misuse and Abuse (MAMA) has been holding clinics in rented locations in Bend for some time, but now runs Bend's first five-day-a-week permanent medical marijuana clinic.
MAMA Executive Director Sandee Burbank said the clinic is open for appointments during which individuals can speak with a doctor and have their medical records reviewed to determine if their condition qualifies for medical marijuana. The clinic will also educate existing cardholders and others about OMMP laws and provide instruction on how to use marijuana other than by smoking it. Marijuana will not be provided at the clinic.