What is said to be the first state law legalizing nonexperimental use of marijuana by a specific category of user was signed into law today by Oregon Gov. Vic Atiyeh.
The law allows possession of up to one ounce of marijuana by persons being treated for glaucoma or receiving chemotherapy treatment for canner.
Supporters of the law, which passed the legislature unanimously, said marijuana is one of the most effective drugs for reducing ocular pressure from glaucoma and for relieving nausea often experienced by perosns undergoing chemotherapy.
Implementation of the law, however, could be delayed by federal rules, the head of the Oregon Health Division said today.
The new Oregon law has been hailed by the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws as a breakthrough in efforts to reclassify the substance. Other states have set up experimental programs using marijuana for medical purposes under federal regulations, but none has legalized the use of marijuana for medical purposes outside the federal regulations.
A representative of the federal Durg Enforcement Administration told the legislature the law would violate various federal statutes but federal officials have not indicated what action they might take to prevent its implementation.
The new state law provides for police to turn confiscated marijuana over to the Oregon Health Division, which is to test it for purity before giving pure marijuana to physicians, who then may dispense it to patients.
Kristine Gebbie, health division administrator, said physicians have said that their dispensing of marijuana could pose a "significant problem" with federal lawa regulating controlled substances.
Under federal law, she said, a physician dispensing marijuana can lose the right to prescribe other drugs covered by the Controlled Substances Act. She said the division will work with the Oregon Medical Association to try to work out a distribution system.
Gebbie said the division also is "very concerned" about how to determine the purity of marijuana. There is no single test for purity, which means it is necessary to run several tests for various possible impurities, she said.