Oregon allows for medical marijuana deduction

 By Associated Press Published: Jul 4, 2012 at 5:53 PM PDT 

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) - Under a little-known practice, Oregon social service officials are allowing certain food stamp applicants 
to deduct medical marijuana costs from their income when qualifying for benefits. 

Only elderly or permanently disabled Oregonians who qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance may file for the deduction,
 according to the Oregonian. 

The Oregon deduction puts the state at odds with the federal government. California and Washington defer to federal guidelines,
 which say the deduction is not allowed. Food stamps, also called the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, are federally funded. 

Gene Evans, spokesman for the Oregon Department of Human Services, said the deduction is so limited that it's seldom been used.
 But any government nod to pot's legitimacy is welcomed by Oregon medical marijuana patients. 

"Awesome," said Bill Esbensen, who helps run The 45th Parallel Compassion Group, an Ontario establishment where medical marijuana 
patients can obtain pot. He said few medical marijuana patients are aware of the deduction. 

Esbensen estimates 60 percent of the 800 or so patients who get medical marijuana from his establishment receive food stamps or are eligible for them. 

"These aren't hippie kids coming to pick up some smoke," he said. "These are sick people." 

In Oregon, when determining whether people are poor enough to receive food stamps, the state allows seniors or those who qualify for
 Social Security Disability Insurance to deduct medical expenses from their income. Along with such costs as prescriptions and 
over-the-counter drugs, the state includes medical marijuana in its definition of medical expenses.

The medical deduction can include the fee for obtaining a state-issued medical marijuana card, the cost of growing marijuana or the 
expense of getting it from a pot grower. 

"Medical marijuana gets treated just like any other prescription drug," Evans said. 

Oregon state officials now plan to discuss Oregon's inclusion of medical marijuana as a deduction with federal food stamp administrators.

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