Vince Carroll of the Denver Post hit the nail on the head with his column on Saturday:
Medical marijuana backers just won't take yes for an answer. The Denver City Council this week took the extraordinary step of passing regulations that will allow 200 to 300 marijuana dispensaries in a town where none existed just months ago. Not a single council member voted no.
So were dispensary backers grateful? Not on your life. The hearing was rife with complaints that the restrictions trampled on patient and caregiver rights. A lawsuit was threatened...
The irony is that the dispensaries -- in Denver and elsewhere -- face a genuine threat: The legislature is considering shutting them down by limiting each 'caregiver' to five patients, making such disputes as occurred in Denver irrelevant...
As someone who supports a regulated dispensary model, I'm baffled by the all-or-nothing attitude of some proponents toward modest restrictions.
Me too, Vince. I am equally baffled. Normally when a legislator runs a bill the proponents (MMJ community) generally support his efforts while they may disagree with particular provisions. Unfortunately, the Medical Marijuana debate has defied all the typical state capitol rules. The MMJ backers have often been the harshest critics of our attempts at reasonable regulations while the law enforcement community has been quietly gaining support to put all of the dispensaries out of business. So while the very existence of the MMJ industry is now in doubt, they remain stubbornly focused on blocking common sense rules like restricting access to under 21 recreational users and establishing a 1000 foot dispensary set back from schools.
Yet as Vince Carroll reports, the real threat is growing. There are 35,000 Coloradans on the medical marijuana registry now on the way to 60,000 by the end of the legislative session. If Attorney General Suthers succeeds in shutting down all medical marijuana businesses, these patients will need to split up and find each other in groups of five through a Match.com registry at the Colorado Health Department. (Does anyone know the people at EHarmony.com? We may want to have the State set up a dating service as well.)
Under Suthers' bill, there will be 12,000 grow operations (the equivalent of four per precinct) in every neighborhood in Colorado instead of several hundred rural commercial grow operations under a regulated approach proposed by myself and others. We will also be giving up millions of dollars in tax revenue and jobs in the worst recession in our lifetime, while cancer patients will end up back in parking lots and alleys buying black market MMJ.
A little common sense regulation will solve this problem so like New Mexico, New Jersey, Rhode Island and Maine, we need to have an adult conversation to regulate medical marijuana. But given the self-righteous MMJ community and the disingenuous proposals from law enforcement, I am not optimistic about the outcome.
There will be two bills this session by Tom Massey (R) and myself. Below is a summary of the first bill dealing with the role of doctors recommending medical marijuana. The second bill will deal with dispensaries. Stay tuned.
The first bill:
The first Romer/Massey bill ensures that patients with a debilitating medical condition form a meaningful medical relationship with a qualified physician in order to obtain medical marijuana.
- Prevents fly-by-night prescriptions by requiring a "bona fide patient-physician relationship" which entails a "treatment or counseling relationship," a physical examination, and an assessment of the patient's medical history. The bill also encourages "follow-up" care by the same physician to determine the efficacy of the medical marijuana.
- Defines a "physician in good standing" as one who holds a legitimate medical degree and holds a valid and unrestricted license to practice medicine in Colorado.
- Establishes a confidential " 24 hour registry and identification card" that gives legitimate patients and caregivers peace of mind that they will not be arrested for possessing medical marijuana, and helps law enforcement determine when possession is legal or not.
- Calls for the establishment of a medical review board for non-military veteran patients under 21-years-old to rule on whether the patient has demonstrated a legitimate medical need for marijuana.