The ACLU submitted written testimony in opposition to SB 777, which would have significantly weakened the Oregon Medical Marijuana Act (OMMA). Passed by voters in 1998, the OMMA permits Oregonians suffering from debilitating medical conditions to use marijuana to relieve their symptoms without being in violation of Oregon criminal law.

There are many OMMA patients whose symptoms can be adequately relieved by occasional use of marijuana. Unfortunately, because federal authorities continue to insist on treating marijuana as a Schedule I controlled substance, Oregon law does not permit physicians to write prescriptions for the medical use of marijuana as they do for medications containing codeine, amphetamines, or morphine. Instead, the attending physician is authorized to issue a statement, signed and dated, to a patient diagnosed with a debilitating medical condition.

SB 777 would have removed the provision in the Oregon law that authorizes the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) to expand the list of medical conditions approved under the OMMA for medical marijuana. Since 1998, OHA has only expanded the law for one additional use despite receiving fourteen requests. OHA appears to be acting in a restrictive manner when it comes to any expansion of this law. The one expansion it allowed was the inclusion of “agitation due to Alzheimer’s disease.”

In addition to removing the authority of OHA to expand the list, SB 777 rewrote the list of debilitating conditions, and dramatically limited the current scope of appropriate use. It removed Alzheimer’s disease and restricted the use of medical marijuana for those with acquired immune deficiency syndrome to treat only lack of appetite and no other symptoms. SB 777 greatly restricted use by cancer patients and allowed only use for appetite loss or nausea as a result of chemotherapy, but not for nausea as a result of any other cancer treatment or any other symptom.

SB 777 would have interfered with the doctor/patient relationship by dramatically limiting the ability of the medical profession to authorize the use of medical marijuana and, thus, make appropriate medical decisions for patients.

Finally, SB 777 would have added another burden to patients, physicians and the OHA, which would have likely passed the financial burdens on to patients, by changing the requirement to seek reauthorization for use from every 12 months to every 6 months. This provision would have required the patient to request that the physician prepare, and the OHA receive documentation, from the attending physician regarding the person’s condition and need for the medical use of marijuana. All of this was intended to eliminate the OMMA. The ACLU submitted written testimony when the Senate Health Care, Human Services and Rural Health Policy held a public hearing. Fortunately, SB 777 died in Committee.