Though Oregon voters gave a thumbs down to a 2010 ballot measure to create state-certified marijuana dispensaries, the Legislature bucked that tyranny of the majority and made them legal this month.

Now the real work starts: how to certify them. 

Nothing says fun for competing advocacy groups like broad, vaguely-worded legislation and House Bill 3460 is perfect in that it "directs [the] Oregon Health Authority to establish a registration system for medical marijuana facilities" and not much else. Well, it also says not to use federal funds or lottery money to finance them, and something about it being an emergency. Otherwise, it is wide open and that leads to a bigger worry for the 11-member Advisory Committee on Medical Marijuana: how to certify the quality. Or what that will even mean.  Will it be entry level USDA certification or Oregon level of quality or the much more sought-after Portland stamp of approval?


They have a right to be concerned. Since marijuana is now a legal business it could have pesticides and stuff, something criminals or some farmer in a legal gray area would never have used. And what about mold, which can be dangerous to smokers with immune deficiencies? 

The Advisory Committee has a solution: make sure the marijuana is certified organic. It's a good idea, there is GMO marijuana out there. Some scientific Dutch folks have created lines of GMO marijuana that have 18 percent levels of THC, compared to 'organic' marijuana that has only 2-7 percent. We don't want people getting more of the good stuff in their marijuana and going all Reefer Madness due to science.

Of course, a citizen's advisory committee on marijuana dispensaries may not be thinking in terms of the real world; it is easy to recommend 'organic' but a higher level of certification means another layer of bureaucracy. Gray market sellers who worried that a crazy free market exercise would bring the price of marijuana down can rest easy. Once organic certification kicks in, it will definitely bring more government jobs and licensing fees and taxes, since the health authority currently has no way to do laboratory audits, and no personnel, equipment or experience in doing them - but nothing in history says that will make it cheaper.