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Medical Marijuana Activists Assert Their Rights; Stop EPD's CredentialingMedia

Eugene Medical Marijuana Hearing attendeesand patients assert their rights demanding that the Oregon Medical Marijuana Program work for them, instead of attempting to dismantle it.
Two meetings, same room, same time: UO Journalism Dean Gleason presents to Police Commission Sub-committee on Media Access Issues how to restrict, control and credential local media.
When I walked into the Medical Marijuana Hearing, a public meeting, and set-up my camera to tape the proceedings, the independent hearings official, Jill Laney J.D. hurried over to me. Before I could start my camera, she hissed underneath her breath, "If you intend to shoot this hearing we will have to cancel this meeting." I started my camera and asked her to repeat herself. Now from the front of the room, Ms. Laney denied what she had said to me, and spoke on behalf of the people in attendance claiming that we could not video, if the audience objected. Ironically, very few did not want to be taped and agreed to speak up if they did not want their faces on tape, but also agreed to have their voices recorded, as a matter of public record.

It was a miracle that anyone even found this meeting. Originally scheduled for 10 am at Eugene's McNutt Room, the meeting was changed at the last minute to a noon meeting in a small, third floor room in the Atrium Building with an enormous table and virtually no room for citizens and literally no room for more than one wheelchair at a time. People who had traveled from the coast and Corvallis did not learn about the changed location and time until they arrived for the 10 am meeting. Literally dozens of people could not get into the room. Many left because they could not wait all afternoon to speak. Others who persisted and waded through a three and a quarter hour hearing were only allowed to be heard on the immediate issue addressed at this meeting.

No one knew how long this hearing was to go on, but after an hour of testimony the Eugene staff for the police commission sub-committee, which intended to discuss credentializing all media, came in and informed the Medical Marijuana Program staff and the Hearings Official that the room was now reserved for this other meeting. Resistant to change rooms and disrupt the hearings the hearing official pressed on and Police Commission Sub-committee on Media Access Issues went downstairs to heard a presentation by the Dean of the UO School of Journalism, Tim Gleason, and discuss his suggestions regarding [General Order 204.1] restricting media access, controlling and naming who can be identified by the police and other public officials as media, and who he defines as having, "The journalistic functions of informing the public [which] requires that the journalist have the ability to reach the public." Translated, this means you can't be identified as media if you can't get broadcasting or print access. Where does this leave an archivist, a documentarian, a librarian, a citizen activist or merely curious and on (use your imagination.)

OK, which meeting is an indyjournalist to attend...

The Medical Marijuana Hearing attended by dozens, who were unable to gain entrance to the room, left leaving fewer than twenty people who gave testimony. The overview expressed during these testimonies was that the program was systematically, being dismantled because a witchunt was being directed at the one MD. in Oregon who was willing to care for all patients, and become their attending physician if their medical condition qualified them for the medical marijuana program. Due to this witchunt, many other doctors were unwilling to sign applications as the attending physician for patients who were normally under their care. The logic inherent in scaring other doctors, by holding hearings on whether Dr. Philip Leveque could qualify as the attending physician for the many patients who sought his help, was according to many speakers intended to reduce the number of people applying for their medical marijuana cards because they could not find a doctor who would sign their card. Without Dr. Leveque, far fewer people would make application, that the program w/could claim that this program was unnecessary. The people testifying made the clear point repeatedly that the current administration was attempting to kill the program.

Temporary rules put into effect last summer were the focus of the hearings. Yet the changes proposed do not refer to any definitions of 'attending physician' except in reference to OAR 333-008-0010(1)[0030]. To date definitions in the OMMA for an attending physician are so vague that Dr. Leveque, who has been interrogated by the Board of Medical Examiners without a known outcome of that process, currently qualifies under these statues. Yet, the changes do propose that many patients would have to relinquish the privacy of their medical records if the administration determines, by some very private logic, that the attending physician meets all requirements and that the MD's recommendation must be scrutinized. Resistance to these aspects of the proposed changes was widespread among the persons testifying.

The employees from the Oregon Department of Health, Office of Medical Marijuana, Mary Levette, MS and Chris Campbell, RN both who sat on the hearings panel along with Jill Laney JD, repeatedly avoided answering any questions posed by the audience and politely refused to listen to comments and complaints about other aspects of the medical marijuana program than whether the proposed changes should be recommended to be put into effect.

Of course, the topics of the testimony were so far ranging that the officials indeed did indeed listen politely, at the taxpayers and the medical marijuana patients' expense, while people freely discussed every aspect of the Medical Marijuana Act and how it was being implemented by the current administration of the Office of Medical Marijuana. These comments ranged from concerns about the irrational numbers attached to how many plants patients can have in either their grow or bloom cycles, to questioning why conditions associated with mental illness, such as insomnia, anxiety, or depression are not covered under this act, to peoples repeated outrage at the annual renewal cost of $150, to people who could not find other doctors to sign their application and ended up busted by the Eugene Police because their card had expired. A desire by many people to open up the definition of attending physician to include: chiropractors, naturopaths, and other healthcare professional beside MDs was expressed. Patients, very openly, described their medical conditions and expressed with passion how this program, as it was being run since Kelly Paige was removed last winter, not only added more stress to their lives but was complicating their disease symptoms by making so many irrational demands upon patients in order to 'be in compliance' which is in direct violation of the intent of OMMA (Oregon Medical Marijuana Act.) People clearly testified that medical marijuana helped their conditions, with less or zero side effects, better than prescription medications. A common theme of living in fear because of medical marijuana use resounded throughout nearly every testimony. People forcefully expressed that they felt as if they were being held hostage by the program and could not receive the relief that medical marijuana provided them. They could not grow enough to meet their needs. Nor could they locate a physician to sign their documents. Nor could they grow their own medicine. Thus needing a fellow patient, who could be trusted to understand their needs, to grow for them, and thereby refuting the proposed change of disallowing a patient who has a primary caregiver from acting as a primary caregiver to another. People testified that establishing the temporary 'Leveque Rules' retroactively is an abrogation of their rights as Oregon citizens and violated the law. Others stated that the intent of the law was to place the State of Oregon as protector for the medical marijuana patients from the Feds, including the DEA, the FBI, anti-terrorist task forces and laws, and whoever else shows up in this illegal citizen persecution.

People also questioned the make-up and authority of the hearings board, including questioning whether the lack of Office of Medical Marijuana Medical Director Higginson's or another attending physician's presence during the hearing meant that no qualified, medical representative was on the hearings board to hear what was substantially medical testimony. This situation voided the legitimacy of this hearing panel. Further concerns asked why the board would not hear testimony about other problems with the program and demanded to know, but received no response, as to when these concerns would be addressed. In addition, people wanted to know but never learned, who would make, and by what process, the decisions would be made that were being addressed in these state-wide hearings. [According to 12/7/01 Register Guard, after the last hearing is held in Portland on Monday, December, 10, 2001 800 NE Oregon St. Ste 120 at 1 pm, (double check this time and location) Dr. Higginson along with his bosses at the Department of Human Services will review Ms. Laney's report and adopt a set of new rules by January 1, 2002.]

The final consensus was that the many snippets of amendments being proposed by the Office of Medical Marijuana would serve only to inextricably alter the program by negating the intent of the law of Oregon, and the will of the voters of Oregon. The proposed changes are evocative of the way our rights are being revoked on the national level in accordance with the USA Patriot Act, formerly known as the Anti-terrorist Act.

Because of defects in the public hearing process, we believe that full supplementary hearings attended by medical doctors need to held under the Oregon's Administrative Procedures Act, in order to have a just, fair and competent hearings process. Patients asked that politics be keep out of health issues, responsible administration under the intent of OMMA be implemented by the staff of the Office of Medical Marijuana, and that the program remove fear of the authorities from the health process.

So... after nearly four hours of testimony, Laney, JD announced with relief that the hearing was over. I know that many people left before giving testimony. Many more could not find the meeting, given its "new" time and obscure location. Others never learned of this hearing which will profoundly affect their lives. And sadly many others, because of their debilitating conditions, would not have made it to this hearing. Ultimately the few voices heard represented the silent suffering many.

Contact information:
Oregon Medical Marijuana Act Information
Department of Human Services
Oregon Medical Marijuana Program
P.O. Box 14450
Portland, OR 97293-9929
www.ohd.hr.state.or.us/oaps/mm/welcome.htm.
Oregon Administrative Rules: 333-008-0010, 333-008-0020, 333-008-0030, 333-008-0050, 333-008-0060, 333-008-0090
ORS 475.300- 475.346
Compassion Center (Eugene) (541)484-6558
Voterpower (Portland) (503)224-3051

Eugene Police Commission Sub-committee on Media Access Issues
Remarks of Tim Gleason to the Police Commission Sub-committee on Media Access Issues is available by contacting Jeannine Parisi at (541) 682-5852. Also ask her for the current minutes and attachments and the next meeting agenda.

The Police Commission Committee on Media Access Issues is requesting input from individuals and organizations representing local media on the topic of media identification and/or credentialing. Specifically, the committee is seeking your opinion on whether requiring media identification, or press passes to access events would be beneficial or not. (Not!!) If a media identification or credentialing policy is recommended, opinions on who should develop the identification standards/format and who should actually create the passes are also sought.

The committee plans to discuss this topic at its December 20th meeting. To allow adequate review time, please submit written testimony by Friday, December 14th. You can FAX your document to the committee at 682-8395 or e-mail staff at  jeannine.parisi@ci.eugene.or.us.

Richard Kauffman contributed to this article.

phone: phone: (541)345-1633
address: address: 2220 Sandy Drive, Eugene, OR 97401