The number of registered patients in Oregon has declined significantly since voters in the state legalized cannabis use for adults in 2014, falling from 77,000 to 67,000, according to NPR-affiliate KUOW. Many patients registered as medical users are declining to renew their medical cards – which costs $200 – opting instead to purchase their medicine in the recreational market.
Of the state’s 300-plus dispensaries, more than 80 percent are licensed to sell recreational cannabis – which can carry sales taxes up to 20 percent depending on their home municipality.
Dr. Christian Le, who runs Green Earth Medicine in Portland, said that while he doesn’t believe the state is pushing out medical sales they are content to let them wither.
“The people who made cannabis legal, as it is today, are actually being thrown to the curb,” he said in the report. “Whether it’s people in the industry making profits off it or whether it’s the state making taxation out of it, that seems to be 99 percent of the focus.”
Mark Pettinger, spokesman for the Oregon Liquor Control Commission, declined to comment on whether tax revenues are driving the push behind recreational sales, but said that putting the same regulations on both the medical and recreational industries are an effort to “protect public safety.”
“That means preventing access by children. It means ensuring that marijuana isn’t diverted from legal intent into the illegal market,” he said. “It means trying to keep marijuana … out of the hands of the cartels and organized crime.”
Some municipalities have banned or enacted moratoriums on recreational dispensaries, which has allowed medical sales to remain strong in those regions, mostly in Eastern Oregon.
Rules permitting recreational sales by medical dispensaries expired on Jan. 1.