One bill would require medical-marijuana dispensaries to provide other health services, limit where they can operate and require additional screenings of younger patients.
Another would put the state in the pot-growing business and require dispensaries to have licensed pharmacists on staff…
The fight will pit those who favor regulating the estimated 100-plus dispensaries now operating in Colorado against those who hope to limit the number of patients one provider can serve.
The latter limitation on providers – called caregivers – is common to most states with medical-marijuana laws and would wipe out or seriously impact Colorado’s dispensaries.
Facing a flood of new medical-pot buyers and sellers that has alarmed some, state Sen. Chris Romer said he is optimistic the murky rules give lawmakers a chance to craft a new model for the rest of the country…
Romer envisions wellness centers that provide some combination of pot, physical therapy, yoga, massage, acupuncture or other similar services. He’s taking aim at college-age users by requiring those 25 or younger to submit medical records to a state review board. And he hopes additional regulations – like licensing, banning felons from selling and advertising limitations – will calm apprehension about dispensaries cropping up in new communities.
State Sen. Al White, R-Hayden, wants the state Agriculture Department and university researchers to exclusively grow pot in Colorado and to put pharmacists in charge of dispensing marijuana.
Our view: there are two parts of this issue–the legitimate public health and law enforcement interest in clarifying the regulations governing the state’s constitutionally-inviolate “medical” marijuana law, and the underlying election-year politics of all this. As is so often the case, the real danger here is the latter tainting the former.
The legitimate public health and safety concerns are what we think Sen. Chris Romer is driving at, although he upset a fair of people, and got a cool reception from many fellow Democrats, by being the first lawmaker to jump up for new legislation to get the “medical marijuana problem” under control. There are a large number of public officials in the state who want to err on the permissive side when it comes to medical marijuana (since our voter-approved law is written most permissively). We submit that public attitudes toward marijuana in general are changing, and more people question the criminalization of marijuana compared to, say, free-flowing alcohol that kills thousands every year than ever before.
That said, nobody likes to see lawful programs abused, so getting a handle on the flood of otherwise-healthy twentysomethings who suddenly develop “chronic pain” doesn’t sound unreasonable. Whatever legislators do to regulate perceived excesses this can’t contravene the permissive language of Amendment 20, however. The laissez faire system we have, like it or not, is substantially what the voters wanted.
Which brings us to the politics: we would caution both liberals and conservatives to limit the scope of legislation to regulate medical pot next session. We don’t think the voters consider the budding (pardon the pun) medical pot dispensary industry to be a problem, and where local governments do they are enacting moratoriums and zoning regulations of their own. Moreover, the marijuana dispensary industry represents a huge new potential revenue source for the state and local governments–billions in new economic activity over the next few years, and (yes, let’s be honest) previously black market activity brought into the light of day.
So instead of what feels like a coordinated effort to stoke ‘moral panic’ that we just don’t think the voting public will buy into, and could even backfire as attitudes and demographics in the state change, why not start thinking about a tax on medical marijuana sales at the gaming and tobacco level to refer for a vote? We’re serious about this: the state is facing a budget shortfall of billions of dollars over the next few years, the cuts that are coming will harm the public good much more than your corner medical pot shop. How many of those painful cuts could we prevent by taxing the holy bejeezus out of marijuana dispensaries, make Doug Bruce blush with how much we tax them, cool by us–instead of running them off?