Last updated: April 14, 2021
Oregon has always been at the forefront of marijuana legalization. In 1973, they became the first state to decriminalize the possession of marijuana in small amounts. Twenty-five years later, Oregon led the way again when they were one of three states to legalize medical marijuana in 1998, just two years after California opened the door by being the first to pass laws legalizing the plant for medicinal use.
It was just three years after Oregon legalized medical use marijuana that the Compassion Center first opened its doors as a non-profit organization. Since then, they’ve served more than 15,000 patients. But things are still changing in the world of medical marijuana, particularly in states like Oregon where it has been legal for some time. Now, recreational marijuana has been legalized, and it has altered the face of the medical cannabis industry.
As recreational legalization developed, some businesses that had strong roots in the community and the medical marijuana industry began to die off. One of those casualties, unfortunately, was the Compassion Center. Located in Eugene, Oregon, they helped more than 1,600 patients get their medical marijuana cards annually when they were thriving. Thousands more were assisted by the Compassion Center with working their way through the Oregon Medical Marijuana Program.
In 2014, measure 91 was passed, legalizing the use of recreational marijuana, though the bill didn’t go into effect until July 1, 2015. A mere two years later, the Compassion Center was closing its doors after providing its services to the community for more than 16 years.
The compassion center was not a dispensary. Rather, it was a nonprofit medical marijuana clinic. Not only did they help people to get their legal medical marijuana cards, but they also helped people through educational programs and networking. Before dispensaries could even operate, the Compassion Center helped connect local growers with patients who were in desperate need of the medications they were making.
But the Compassion Center truly lived up to its name with all of the free and reduced-fee services they offered. If you needed books, vape pens, or any sort of supplies related to your medical marijuana, they would sell it to you for a reduced cost. And for those who were in need but facing hard times, the Compassion Center even managed to provide free medications.
The Compassion Center prided itself on following the laws governing medical marijuana use to a T. They performed hands-on physical exams on every patient. Furthermore, they required medical records that documented a qualifying medical condition. When the cost of a medical marijuana card went up in Oregon, the Compassion Center lowered the cost of their exams so that medical marijuana wouldn’t be out of reach for those without the means to afford the new higher prices.
After more than 16 years of serving the medical marijuana community in Eugene, Oregon, why did the Compassion Center suddenly fail? Well, it wasn’t a very sudden failure at all. In fact, it was a rather gradual demise.
As the state increased the cost of medical marijuana cards, the Compassion Center decreased their fees and their doctors took pay cuts. Soon, medical marijuana applications were decreasing as recreational use became legal and easy to access. This resulted in further loss of income for the Compassion Center.
After this, they were forced to move to a smaller location and decrease the size of their staff. They continued helping patients, though the Compassion Center was in major decline. Soon, they could no longer afford to cover the cost of their building and employees, so, the Compassion Center was forced to close its doors.
If you weren’t involved in the medical marijuana industry in Oregon during the early 2000s, then you may not have ever heard of the Compassion Center. But for those patients who needed help navigating the legal medical marijuana world in Oregon from 2001–2017, the Compassion Center was the place to turn to. The legalization of recreational marijuana in the state contributed to their downfall as medical patients left, combined with the rising costs of the medical marijuana program.
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