In an Age of Legal Pot, Medical Marijuana Is Drawing Controversy

His medical pot grow operation is a lot of work for little remuneration. By virtue of Oregon’s tangled rules around medicinal marijuana, he’s not allowed to turn a profit.

But Simpson has diversified. Beyond growing medical marijuana and owning the Powell House Cannabis Club pot dispensary in Foster-Powell, he sells grow lights and plant nutrients, and finances commercial loans.

“Those luckily pay well,” he says. “I get to grow for patients out of passion.”

Not all of Oregon’s medical marijuana producers have such a sweet setup. And after operating for years under state regulations that vastly limit how much pot they can grow—along with their ability to make money—an organized contingent of growers eyeballing the state’s looming market for recreational pot say the 16-year-old Oregon Medical Marijuana Program (OMMP) is finally due for change.

The only problem? The people who sold voters on last year’s pot-legalizing Measure 91 are fighting back.

“The medical marijuana program should not be an economic engine. It should be, first and foremost, about patients who use medical cannabis,” Anthony Johnson, the chief petitioner behind Measure 91, told Oregon Liquor Control Commission (OLCC) bigwigs at a January 30 hearing.

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