For the Sake of OMMP Patients, Advocate Alice Ivany Urges a Halt to House Bill 3400


Alice Ivany is livid to say the least. Oregonians may remember Alice from her activism when she teamed up with the medical cannabis community in 2008-2010 as Co-Chief Petitioner of Measure 74, the Medical Marijuana Dispensary Initiative. Alice was left with only one arm following a horrific industrial accident many years ago. Pharmaceutical pain medication did not work for her subsequent health complications.

Alice’s journey to the OMMP

Alice enrolled in the Oregon Medical Marijuana Program (OMMP) in 2001 when cannabis medicine became her only choice left to try to relieve her severe chronic pain. Today, Alice does not hesitate to educate others about cannabis medicine and explain how it changed her life for the better. She was unable to obtain the medicine that finally worked for her because of a decision or fatal flaw omitting the creation of a dispensary system circa 1999 and subsequent legislative sessions that could have created safe, legal access for OMMP participants.  As a result Alice suffered without pain relief for 17 months.

Alice did not use cannabis prior to first registering in the OMMP and quickly learned it was impossible for her to acquire cannabis through a safe dignified legal system, like a pharmacy. She discovered the only means to acquire cannabis was through unsafe and illegal sources. Unfortunately, because she was inexperienced, she did not know how to access that resource and was not willing to ask strangers if they knew where to get cannabis. In 2003, she tried growing for herself, but she had no experience and suffered crop failures.

By 2005, tired of the access struggle, Alice decided to redress her difficulties with the Oregon Legislature. Through visiting with lawmakers in Salem, she met many other activists.  By 2008 after the Oregon legislature had accomplished little to address this expanding problem.  The Oregon legislature through process simply refused to take reasonable measures to help relieve inadequate supply systems.

We the people…

Several leading activists realized the only other option was to go through the long and expensive initiative process in Oregon. She often reminds her fellow citizens; this is “the people’s government.” Your government. It will only function for the people if the people are involved. It is, in fact, our civic responsibility to be the watch-dogs, reference points, advisors and counsel to our elected lawmakers. It is our responsibility to be involved in the people’s government. We, the People, thanks to Oregon’s initiative process are, in fact, the co-legislative branch of our government.

I invited Alice to make comments because she has been involved in cannabis politics for over a decade and has remained a vocal advocate on the behalf of OMMP participants. Many patients have echoed my concern that medical cannabis patients are not given equal voice and remedy in our state legislature today, in part because they do not have piles of money to pay for lobbyists.

It is troubling in a time when ‘farm to table’ is all the rage, legislators have seemingly prioritized moneyed interests over the needs of medical cannabis patients when it comes to patient rights, ease of program navigation, fees, regulations and safe access to cannabis medicines. It certainly feels like OMMP patients have become the lowest priority to both OHA and the Oregon legislature’s considerations for creating a program that could instead prioritize participants needs in order to ensure a satisfactory and effective program. But instead participants registered with the OMMP feel a bit separated from and are on the “outskirts looking in.”

Over the past 17 years our elected officials have heard and subsequently ignored the vast majority of thousands of complaints and concerns voiced to the OHA/ACMM and the Oregon legislature. Alice served on the ACMM from 2009-2013. The OHA consistently takes the most constrictive and conservative positions. They continue to increase the costs for participation. The consequence is inadequate health care.

Cannabis medicine still remains out of reach for many low income and lower-middle class patients. Alice fought hard in 2010 to give patients an option to access medicine at dispensaries but she never imagined the legislature would so callously ignore and overturn the votes by the majority of the people that created a patient’s right to grow for themselves and to designate a grower if they can’t or choose not to grow for themselves.

Legalization is great, but what about sick and disabled patients?

As I guessed, Alice does not accept what the program will become if House Bill 3400 is implemented. Alice sympathizes with patients in rural Oregon cities and counties that have opted out of having medical dispensaries and now their “back up plan” of having a grower is in jeopardy. Many growers who have been growing for large numbers of patients in the areas hundreds of miles from the nearest dispensary will only be able to provide for the health care of a few.

Ivany references comments made by Senator Ted Ferrioli during the January 13th, 2016 Joint Committee on Implementing Measure 91 hearing when he said, “we are gonna be reversing the expectation from OMMP patients who were told during the Measure 91 debate that their program would not be affected, but we’ve obviously blown the doors off that issue but I want to make sure people are not stranded that are medically needy.”

Alice appreciates Sen. Ferrioli’s recognition of some of the struggles OMMP participants face, though a bit late in the process. Alice also appreciates the hard work done by Sen. Prozanski, Rep. Lininger and Rep. Buckley, who are making every effort to protect low income patients and honor the people’s will so clearly expressed, by 56% of voters, when M 91 passed. We appreciate their efforts to preserve the OMMA/OMMP.

Alice knows that illness knows no boundaries. Patients from out of state will not be able to get their Oregon Medical Marijuana card and was proud when Oregon was a leader in helping all patients in all states access medicine. Alice sited the story of the young patient from Utah named, Remie Ellett. Remie was unable to eat or drink like a normal person until she tried a whole plant cannabis treatment thanks to Oregon’s medical marijuana program. Sadly the mother, Sarah Ellett, will be faced with the option of seeing her daughter suffer, explore black market options or move to another state.

It seems that some of our elected officials seem to want to decrease the number of patients and further constrict participation in the OMMP. Patients have asked our lawmakers over the years to remove the very limited OMMP list of qualifying conditions to allow Doctors to fully treat their patients without government intrusion. Alice is worried that our legislators are essentially making health care decisions that would be better left to doctors; it’s akin to the legislature deciding how many people could be a part of other medical/health care programs receiving cancer treatments or insulin for treating Diabetes. Of course that is an absurd notion, but yet, OMMP participants find themselves singled out and in that very compromising situation and Ivany says, “The legislative committee is not qualified to make such critical health care decisions and should reconsider their approach.”

It is worrisome to many patient advocates that Sen. Burdick can be seen questioning the OHA as to why the number of patients has gone up. She seems concerned that patients continue renewing and registering in the state medical marijuana program. In this clip from the January 13th, 2016 Informational Meeting held by the Measure 91 Implementation Committee, Senator Ted Ferrioli defends the most vulnerable patients as I mentioned earlier in this blog and his comments can be seen at the time stamp, 1:13:35.

Senator Ginny Burdick can be seen next at 1:13:54. From a more optimistic perspective, couldn’t the stabilization/slight increase of OMMP registrants be an indicator there was not in fact, a “crises of cheaters” acting as patients in the program? Perhaps if there was credible evidence submitted supporting such claims, heard over the many sessions since 1999, instead of so much anecdotal evidence then we would not be creating restrictive laws that hurt patients based on an assumption that there is problem.

Alice believes the best way to move forward is to direct our lawmakers to declare an “exceptional emergency” and impose a full stop halt to the implementation of OHA’s proposed rules for HB 3400 until all interested stakeholders can come to the table and craft a better, more compassionate system that works for all, through debate, discussion, science, common sense fact-finding and compromise. OHA’s proposed rules for HB3400 seem haphazardly rushed, poorly reasoned and at this time unfinished.

We need to revisit this situation when there is more time than a “short legislative session” allows. If we succeed in halting HB 3400, then we should allow a year to craft rules and have time to share the rules with the people in the program to ensure we do not fill up our jails again with marijuana offenders. Regulations are basically re-prohibitions and act as traps to those too sick to understand what they need to do to follow the tracking requirements. If the legislature does not stop the implementation of some of the harmful provision of House Bill 3400, the weight and burden upon Oregon’s most ill, poor and those with the least voice will be unconscionable and inexcusable. Don’t these constituents already have enough to cope with?

Make your voices heard

Here is the contact information for all of the most powerful legislators in Oregon. Alice urges you to please look up who your legislators are, and add their email addresses. Due to the time constraints we must act immediately if you want your opinion to be heard.,,,,,,,,,,

Use this Contact Form to contact Governor Kate Brown

Sarah Duff

Sarah Duff is a longtime cannabis law reform advocate that has helped successful measures qualify for the ballot in both Oregon and Missouri. Mixing activism with a socially conscious entrepreneurial spirit, Sarah co-owns Duff Johnson Consulting, a company that helps assists patients, cultivators, clinics, dispensaries and other businesses comply with Oregon cannabis laws. Sarah also produces medical marijuana products, including tinctures and lotions, through her Freedom Fighter Farms line that donates a portion of proceeds to charity and those in need.