SALEM, Ore. (AP) -- Medical marijuana dispensaries are a signature away from being legal in Oregon.
The state House of Representatives approved a bill Saturday to establish a licensing system for medical marijuana outlets. The bill, which passed 32-27, now goes to Gov. John Kitzhaber to sign.
Current law requires medical marijuana cardholders to grow the weed themselves or find someone to grow it for them. The bill would enable cardholders to purchase the drug from state-licensed medicinal pot shops.
Supporters say legalizing dispensaries will make it easier for the state's nearly 55,000 medical pot users to get their medicine and harder for the black market to get its hands on Oregon weed.
Some opponents argue the bill doesn't have enough teeth to go after people who abuse the state's medical marijuana program.
A similar bill was approved by the Oregon state Senate on Wednesday. Under the senate's bill, medical marijuana retailers would pay $4,000 a year to remain registered. Owners would have to pass criminal background checks, document the marijuana coming into their establishments and verify it's from state-registered growers.
The bill also requires testing all marijuana batches for pesticides, molds and mildews.
Editor's note: Medical dispensaries already exist in many areas of Oregon. Those who run the shops tell KOIN 6 News this formal approval, if signed by Gov. Kitzhaber, would bring a sigh of relief for those operating in what has been until now a "gray area."
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