Sen. Romer Responds to Medical Marijuana Drama

Responding to a flurry of news in the last week on the efforts to strike a regulatory balance for the state’s medical marijuana law, Sen. Chris Romer sent us some thoughts on the matter that we’ve reprinted after the jump. Says Sen. Romer, “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.”

Nothing Focuses the Mind like a Near Death Experience Unless You Are a Colorado MMJ Supporter – Sen. Chris Romer

Vince Carroll, 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…

The self-righteous carping only confirms the worst suspicions of dispensary opponents: that the medical marijuana lobby is actually interested mainly in the backdoor legalization of cannabis itself – a status that Colorado voters rejected in 2006…

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.

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14 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. Dan Willis says:

    but it still makes a lot more sense to me to simply legalize the use of cannibis and subject the manufacture and sale of cannabis non-textile products to the same regulations as alcohol.

    And for the record, I personally dislike the smell of the stuff and, aside from a few (namely 3) experimentations as a teenager many a moon ago, have chosen not to partake.  

    • Voyageur says:

      Legalize it, regulate it, tax it (at about $50 an ounce) and earmark the proceeds to higher education.  If sin taxes are all we have left, so be it.  Prohibition is a failed policy.

    • But it would require another ballot initiative, and the DEA hasn’t agreed to leave the non-medical MJ trade alone, so there would still be Federal threats to any and all dispensaries if they didn’t have the cover of medical necessity.

      At some point this becomes a Federal issue.  For now in Colorado it’s mostly not…

  2. DanS says:

    As a supporter of common sense medical marijuana, it baffles me how eager the MMJ community (namely the haphazard dispensery lobby) is to commit political sucicide. Regulatory legislation WILL be passed this legislative session (CO voters can only take so many front page pot articles and undercover news stories about overly zealous MMJ “doctors”), the only question is whose. Romer is trying hard to strike an appropriate balance that MMJ supporters should welcome with open arms… Or Suthers could easily have his way and bye-bye dispenseries. And who knows, soon after it could be legal MMJ entirely…

    • DavidThi808 says:

      A lot of the dispensary people (not all Wanda) are trying to make this blatant full legalization. I have news for you – you want it fully legal, I want it fully legal, but the voters do not. All that passed was legit medical use.

      So shut up, cooperate, work to create something that matches the intent of the voters. Then give them a couple of years to see that nothing bad happened.

  3. Whiskey Lima Juliet says:

     we are working hard to make headway.  But just for a minute ask yourself how many times the Denver Post has quoted Dr. Reefer?  The people doing the right things are not given the press time.  We are just not that fun to write about.  The front page grabs much more attention with a picture of guy holding a sign, saying “I smoke pot” instead of the piece I posted written by Matt Brown of CMMR.

    However, the bigger issue that Sen. Romer pointed out is the 65,000 patients.  Do we think they are just going to go away? We have come way too far down this path to turn around.  

    Think about the people you know that have a card, the real change in society right now is who is not afraid to talk about using it. It is losing its taboo feel and I believe people are going to fight to keep the right to buy medication in safe place.  People who vote, know politics and understand economics.  

    I have a standing invitation to anyone in politics, law enforcement or gov’t to tour our dispensary.  I guarantee we can show you a business that you would not have an issue voting in favor of.

    One last point.  Would law enforcement PLEASE stop quoting, “This is not what the voters wanted.”

    The voters knew exactly what they voting for.  

  4. But the more I have seen/heard Sen. Romer speak on this issue, the more I agree with what he is/was trying to do.

    Sen. Romer answers my question from the last medical marijuana discussion we had – namely, who needs to be qualified as having an ongoing caregiving relationship to the patient.  I agree with his proposed bill – this prescription should ideally come from a doctor who is either the patient’s primary physician or a specialist offering long-term care for the patient (e.g. an oncologist).

    And we do need some statewide regulation or the dispensaries in the state are going to run afoul of not-so-well-meaning law enforcement, both at the local level and from the Feds.

    If you want legalization, go start an initiative petition and hope it comes out better than the last one.

    • Danny the Red (hair) says:

      The BME should be regulating closely the Doctor’s behavior.

      http://blogs.westword.com/late

      Now, however, the department is taking the initiative regarding the handful of physicians who’ve authorized the vast majority of the state’s medical marijuana patients — fifteen who’ve accounted for 73 percent of the state’s nearly 16,000 total, with a third of them okaying nearly half that amount.

      Ned Calonge, the state’s chief medical officer, speaks plainly about such docs. “I don’t believe these physicians are practicing within the community standard of medical care,” he says.

      Calonge offers an example from numerous anecdotes he’s heard.

      “You might walk in to a dispensary, and they give you a pre-completed form. You check off chronic pain. They might do a blood-pressure check, and then a physician looks at you, asks you a couple of questions, signs your form and your application is complete. And that’s not appropriate medical care. That’s substandard.

      “Let’s just lay it out. There’s no other setting in medicine where this can occur — where you can walk in off the street, see a physician who’s never seen you before, have him or her diagnose you with a chronic condition without ever examining you, document this chronic debilitating condition, refer you to a pharmacy that he or she may have an interest in or gets a kickback from, give you a psychoactive substance, and when you walk out the door, you’ll never see that doctor again.

      “If it was any other substance — if it was dilaudid, say — that doctor would be arrested and his or her license would be taken away. That’s substandard care. But we have report after report that this is exactly what’s happening, and the public-health department can’t sanction substandard care. One of my obligations as a licensed doctor in the state of Colorado is that if I have concerns about substandard care being delivered by another physician, I have a duty under my license to report it — and not reporting it is grounds for disciplinary action.”

      Whether or not you support prohibition, medical use, or full recreational legalization, what the citizen’s voted for is indisputable: medical use.

      If you want recreational use first it has to be demonstrated that it can work as a controlled substance.

      • Gray in Mountains says:

        in healthcare. They are used to save time, to let the patient participate, to be sure that nothing that needs to be asked is forgotten.

        A checklist is not the problem.

        It is also not reasonable to expect that one’s primary physician will necessarily recommend pot, even when it may well help with symptomatic relief of pain or nausea.

        Having said all that, it is clear that there are physicians, just as there were with weight loss clinics, who will easily recommend folks to use pot. At least you can’t say they are in the pocket of big pharma. Some of these folks probably just believe it ought to be legal, some excuse their ethical lapse on the ground that the patient will get his pot somewhere, and some just want the easy extra income.

        Yes, if docs were doing this with Dilaudid they would be investigated and they should be. Dilaudid is a very powerful narcotic and deserves some regulation.

        • RedGreen says:

          The vast majority of primary care physicians in Colorado won’t recommend medical marijuana, for any number of reasons. Some HMOs even have corporate policies forbidding it. That’s one reason why these specialty marijuana prescribers have sprung up. The recent avalanche of referrals probably has a recreational component — medical marijuana advocates lose credibility when they claim otherwise — but there’s more to the history explaining why so few doctors write so many of the referrals.

          • The patient’s primary care physician or caregiving specialist can (and should at request) be able to write up a description of the patient’s condition that would validate the patient’s claim to the prescribing physician.  That physician would then be responsible for follow-ups on the effects of the treatment, since the other caregiver declined involvement.

            • Whiskey Lima Juliet says:

              Most people who work in the restaurant industry, for example, do not have health care.  The idea of a “relationship” with a doctor is not a financial possibility.  So, many times a patient may not have x-rays for a back issue or a history of prescription drugs.  They have simply been self medicating for years.  Now they have the opportunity to meet people who can actually help them better understand THC and feel like they are safe from prosecution.

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