News / USA

Legal Drug Dealers Prepare to Set Up Shop in Oregon

A measure on this November's ballot would allow state residents to buy marijuana for medical purposes

Pot sales are conducted behind the curtain on the right at the Green Heart medical marijuana dispensary in Mount Shasta, California.
Pot sales are conducted behind the curtain on the right at the Green Heart medical marijuana dispensary in Mount Shasta, California.

Multimedia

Audio
Chris Lehman

Oregon is one of 14 U.S. states that allows its citizens to use marijuana for medical purposes. But they can't legally buy the drug. They have to grow it themselves or find a caregiver to grow it for them.  

A measure on this November's ballot would change that by following California's lead in allowing storefront pot sales.  California has hundreds of medical marijuana dispensaries but sponsors of Oregon's Measure 74 say their measure takes a more conservative approach.

Drug deals

Several drug deals take place all of the time in Mount Shasta, California.

It's late afternoon at The Green Heart, a medical marijuana dispensary where a steady stream of customers comes in the door of the basement shop. They sit in a waiting room until a clerk examines their ID. Once approved, they're invited into a second curtained-off room to make their purchase.

"We got some joints," says the sales clerk. "Did you want one? I know you're a joint guy."

In just over 10 minutes, a half-dozen customers buy nearly $240 worth of pot.

One of them is Army veteran Tim Scarborough, who says he injured his knee during a training accident. He says marijuana helps control the pain. And he says he can't grow this much at home.

"This place is a convenience," says Scarborough. "Right now my plants aren't even close to being mature to harvest. I still have another month, month and a half before I could do that."

The Green Heart marijuana dispensary is located in a basement storefront.
The Green Heart marijuana dispensary is located in a basement storefront.

Another customer, Terri Barton, says she has bipolar disorder, but admits she's been using pot since her early teens, long before California voters approved medical marijuana in 1996. She says it's much easier to shop at the dispensary than buy it on the street. Barton believes marijuana helps her condition, but can't explain how.

"I don't know the details of the plant. It's medicine for me," she says. "I buy it in a little sack, and I consume it by smoking it." Turning to the clerk, she asks, "Can I get three grams of the cheapest you got?"

Promoting drug use?

The Green Heart is one of three marijuana dispensaries in this northern California town. It's a different story just up the road in Yreka, where the city council has banned them altogether. City Manager Steve Baker says dispensaries don't fit the family-friendly image the city is trying to create.

"We're looking at a storefront where people advertise," says Baker. "They're encouraging the use, possibly, well beyond the original intent of the use of medical marijuana."

That's the argument law enforcement organizations are making in Oregon. Sheriffs, police chiefs and district attorneys say giving the green light to marijuana storefronts will lead to more abuse of the drug by making it more available.

Clatsop County Sheriff Tom Bergin says medical pot dispensaries can be targets for crime. But that isn't his only problem with Measure 74.

"Is this about pain or is this about profit?" asks Bergin. "The final outcome, what they're really hoping for, is just total legality of another drug into our society."

Pushing the limits

In fact, California is about to go one step further. In November, voters will decide whether to legalize marijuana - and not just for medical purposes. However, supporters of the Oregon dispensary measure say that's not on the agenda here.

They point to Measure 74's safeguards against abuse: criminal background checks for employees while dispensaries and growers would have to register with the state. That's not required in California. And unlike California, medical marijuana users in Oregon are required to carry state-issued cards.

One of Measure 74's chief petitioners, Alice Ivany, says Oregon can learn from what she sees as California's mistakes.

"We're trying to legitimize this. We're trying to take the concern away from the public with having inspections on these specific gardens. We're having dispensaries inspected."

While she and the thousands of other Oregonians who use medical marijuana may grow their own pot, she says the dispensary measure is an insurance policy for when their crops fail. To Ivany, permitting a corner shop to sell marijuana is about compassion for people with chronic illnesses, who have a hard time getting medication.

It's also about compensation. The state would get a 10 percent cut of dispensary marijuana sales.

You May Like

Video British Fighters On Frontline of ISIS Information War

It’s estimated that several hundred British citizens are fighting for Islamic State alongside other foreign jihadists More

Multimedia Hit Song Delivers Ebola Message in Liberia

'Ebola in Town' has danceable beat, while also delivering serious message about avoiding infection More

Video New Technology Gives Surgeons Unprecedented Views of Patients’ Bodies

Technology offers real-time, interactive, medical visualization and is multi-dimensional More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Native Bees May Help Save Cropsi
X
Deborah Block
August 22, 2014 12:23 AM
U.S. President Barack Obama has called for a federal strategy to promote the health of bees that have been declining. The honeybee has been waning due to parasites, disease and pesticides. Wild bees may be used to take over their role as crop pollinators. Scientists first need to learn a lot more about wild bees, says biologist Sam Droege, who is pioneering the first national inventory on native bees. VOA’s Deborah Block went to his research laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland, to bring you more.
Video

Video Native Bees May Help Save Crops

U.S. President Barack Obama has called for a federal strategy to promote the health of bees that have been declining. The honeybee has been waning due to parasites, disease and pesticides. Wild bees may be used to take over their role as crop pollinators. Scientists first need to learn a lot more about wild bees, says biologist Sam Droege, who is pioneering the first national inventory on native bees. VOA’s Deborah Block went to his research laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland, to bring you more.
Video

Video US Defense Officials Plan for Long-Term Strategy to Contain Islamic State

U.S. defense officials say American air strikes in Iraq have helped deter Islamic State militants for the time being, but that a broad international effort is needed to defeat the extremists permanently. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel warned Thursday that the group formerly known as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL, is better organized, and financially and militarily stronger than any other known terrorist group. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Drug-Resistant Malaria Spreads in Southeast Asia

On Thailand’s border with Myanmar, also known as Burma, a malaria research and treatment clinic is stepping up efforts to eliminate a drug-resistant form of the parasite - before it spreads abroad. Steve Sandford reports from Mae Sot, Thailand.
Video

Video Gaza Conflict, Hamas Popularity Challenge Abbas

The Palestinian unity government of Mahmoud Abbas has failed to convince Hamas to agree to Egyptian-negotiated terms with Israel on a Gaza cease-fire. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports on what the Gaza conflict means for President Abbas, with whom U.S. officials have worked for years on a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Video

Video Nigeria's 'Nollywood' Movie Industry Rolls in High Gear

Twenty years after its birth in a video shop in Lagos, Nigeria's "Nollywood" is one of the most prolific film industries on earth. Despite low budgets and whirlwind production schedules, Nigerian films are wildly popular in Africa and industry professionals say they hope, in the future, their films will be as great in quality as they are in quantity. Heather Murdock has more for VOA from Lagos.
Video

Video UN Launches 'Biggest Aid Operation in 30 Years' in Iraq

The United Nations has launched what it describes as one of the biggest aid operations in 30 years in northern Iraq, as hundreds of thousands of refugees flee the extremist Sunni militant group calling itself the Islamic State. As Kurdish and Iraqi forces battle the Sunni insurgents, the fighting has forced more people to flee their homes. Kurdish authorities say the international community must act now to avert a humanitarian catastrophe. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Cambodian American Hip Hop Artist Sings of Personal Struggles

A growing underground movement of Cambodian American hip hop artists is rapping about the struggles of living in urban America. Most, if not all of them, are refugees or children of refugees who came to the United States from Cambodia to escape the Khmer Rouge genocide of the 1970s. Through their music, the artists hope to give voice to immigrants who have been struggling quietly for years. Elizabeth Lee reports from Long Beach, California.
Video

Video African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebola

While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid