By Anne Holland
Fourteen years ago, Oregon passed a law allowing elderly and permanently disabled citizens who qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance to file for deductions on the cost of applying for a medical marijuana patient card. Under state – but not Federal- law, they may also deduct the costs of buying medical marijuana from their income when they apply for benefits. Maine and New Mexico also allow similar medical marijuana deductions.
These local allowances barely made a ripple in the public consciousness. Bill Esbensen of the 45th Parallel Compassion Group, an Oregon-based dispensary noted that although he thought as many as 60% of the 800 patients the center serves would qualify for the deduction, only a tiny portion actually ever use it.
Last Tuesday, The Oregonian newspaper ran a story about the food stamp deduction. Thanks to the Internet, it went viral. Now, this 1998 law is hot news everywhere from Huffington Post to the Village Voice.
Partly this interest is sparked by the fact that it’s otherwise a fairly slow news week, and reporters have to fill pages. However, it’s also a clear sign of a growing nation-wide interest in the fate of medical marijuana. How many other decade old local laws get this kind of national press coverage? None. It’s a good sign for the industry.
Unfortunately, it’s also bad news because the federal spotlight is now shining on the situation. Food stamps are federally funded after all. Oregon public officials have already begun making noises about revisiting the law shortly. The few patients who had benefited may find themselves out of luck soon.