Medical Marijuana Dispensary by Chuck “Caveman” Coker

Medical Marijuana Dispensary (Chuck “Caveman” Coker via Flickr)

Oregon voters will decide in November if the state should have medical marijuana dispensaries in the spirit of California and Colorado. A ballot initiative, known as I-28, would legalize nonprofit medical marijuana dispensaries to sell marijuana to card-carrying patients. According to Oregon Business, the initiative barely qualified for November’s ballot.

The Secretary of State’s office has announced that I-28, the medical marijuana dispensary initiative, has qualified for the November 2 ballot.

Organizers of the I-28 campaign turned in 130,702 signatures, 85,848 of which turned out to be valid, narrowly exceeding the required number of 82,769 valid signatures. A separate campaign to legalize marijuana and sell it through state-run liquor stores went nowhere.

The idea behind I-28 is to allow people to set up nonprofit dispensaries for selling marijuana to people holding medical marijuana cards. The system would be overseen by the state health department.

Such a system would almost certainly result in a gold rush to tap into the growing market for legal weed, which has been lucratively exploited in California and Colorado. Marijuana is the nation’s largest cash crop, and any move to update regulations controlling how it is grown and sold will create opportunities within Oregon’s already sizable marijuana business. Just because an operation is a nonprofit doesn’t mean it can’t bring in big money. The dispensaries also would bring new revenue into state government from license fees.

As this article notes, an initiative to legalize marijuana failed quite miserably. The Oregon Tax Cannabis Act of 2010, sponsored by the Oregon chapter of NORML, gathered only 12,000 signatures of the 83,000 required. A similar initiative in Washington missed the ballot by a hair. Expect these two Western states, along with Colorado, to try again with full force to put legalization on the ballot in 2012.