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 In Ukraine's Nikishino, No House Untouched by Fighting

Ninety percent of homes in one small village were damaged or destroyed as government forces failed to stop a rebel advance More

Pakistan’s 'Last Self-Declared Jew' Attacked, Detained

Argument about the rights of non-Muslims in Pakistan allegedly results in mob beating well-known Jewish Pakistani More

Turkey Cracks Down on Political Dissent, Again

People daring to engage in political dissent ahead of upcoming general elections could find themselves in jail 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.
In Their Own Words: Citizens of Kobanii
X
Mahmoud Bali
March 06, 2015 8:43 PM
Civilians are slowly returning to Kobani, after Kurdish fighters backed by coalition airstrikes fought off a four-month siege of the northern Syrian town by Islamic State militants. VOA Kurdish Service reporter Mahmoud Bali talked to some of those who have returned. We hear about the devastation of Kobani through their own words.
Video

Video In Their Own Words: Citizens of Kobani

Civilians are slowly returning to Kobani, after Kurdish fighters backed by coalition airstrikes fought off a four-month siege of the northern Syrian town by Islamic State militants. VOA Kurdish Service reporter Mahmoud Bali talked to some of those who have returned. We hear about the devastation of Kobani through their own words.
Video

Video In Ukraine's Nikishino, No House Untouched by Fighting

In the village of Nikishino, in eastern Ukraine, recent fighting has brought utter devastation. Ninety percent of the houses are damaged or destroyed after government forces tried and failed to stop rebels advancing on the strategically important town of Debaltseve nearby. Patrick Wells reports for VOA from Nikishino.
Video

Video Crime Scenes Re-Created in 3-D Visualization

Police and prosecutors sometimes resort to re-creations of crime scenes in order to better understand the interaction of all participants in complicated cases. A Swiss institute says advanced virtual reality technology can be used for quality re-creations of events at the moment of the crime. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Sierra Leone Ebola Orphans Face Another Crisis

There's growing concern about the future of an orphanage run by a British charity in Sierra Leone, after a staff member and his wife died this week from Ebola. The Saint George Foundation Orphanage in Freetown is now in quarantine, with more than 20 children and seven staff in lock-down. The BBC has agreed to share Ebola-related material with Voice of America because of the difficulties faced by media organizations reporting the crisis. Clive Myrie reports from Sierra Leone.
Video

Video Growing Concerns Over Whether Myanmar’s Next Elections Will Be Fair

Myanmar has scheduled national elections for November that are also expected to include a landmark referendum on the country's constitution. But there are growing concerns over whether the government is taking the necessary steps to prepare for a free and fair vote. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman was recently in Myanmar and files this report from our Southeast Asia bureau in Bangkok.
Video

Video Nigeria’s Ogonis Divided Over Resuming Oil Production

More than two decades ago, Nigeria’s Ogoni people forced Shell oil company to cease drilling on their land, saying it was polluting the environment. Now, some Ogonis say it’s time for the oil to flow once again. Chris Stein reports from Kegbara Dere, Nigeria.
Video

Video Fuel Shortages in Nigeria Threaten Election Campaigns

Nigeria is suffering a gas shortage as the falling oil price has affected the country’s ability to import and distribute refined fuels. Coming just weeks before scheduled March 28 elections, the shortage could have a big impact on the campaign, as Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA.
Video

Video Report: Human Rights in Annexed Crimea Deteriorating

A new report by Freedom House and the Atlantic Council of the United States says the human rights situation in Crimea has deteriorated since the peninsula was annexed by Russia in March of last year. The report says the new authorities in Crimea are discriminating against minorities, suppressing freedom of expression, and forcing residents to assume Russian citizenship or leave. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video 50 Years Later African-Americans See New Voting Rights Battles Ahead

Thousands of people will gather to mark the 50th anniversary of a historic civil rights march on March 7th in Selma, Alabama. In 1965, dozens of people were seriously injured during the event known as “Bloody Sunday,” after police attacked African-American demonstrators demanding voting rights. VOA’s Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights pioneers who are still fighting for voting rights in Alabama more than 50 years later.
Video

Video Craft Brewers Taking Hold in US Beer Market

Since the 1950’s, the U.S. beer industry has been dominated by a handful of huge breweries. But in recent years, the rapid rise of small craft breweries has changed the American market and, arguably, the way people drink beer. VOA’s Jeff Custer reports.
Video

Video Video Claims to Show Shia Forces in Iraq Executing Sunni Boy

A graphic mobile phone video is spreading on the Internet, claiming to show Iraqi forces or Shia militia executing a handcuffed Sunni boy. Experts have yet to verify the video, but already Islamic State followers are publicizing it across social media, playing on deep-rooted sectarian fears. VOA’s Jeff Seldin reports.
Video

Video Ukrainian Authorities Struggle to Secure a Divided Mariupol

Since last month's cease-fire went into effect, shelling around the port city of Mariupol has decreased, but it is thought pro-Russian separatists remain poised to attack. For the city’s authorities, a major challenge is gaining the trust of residents, while at the same time rooting out informants who are passing sensitive information to the rebels. Patrick Wells reports for VOA.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More