Colorado: Listen to Voters on Medical Marijuana

We question whether state lawmakers have the authority to create a dispensary system. Why not put it before the voters?

March 11, 2010 – Medical marijuana legislation pending in the state legislature could legitimize hundreds of dispensaries, and we don’t think that honors the intent of voters who approved narrowly drawn access for sick people.

While state lawmakers may believe they have the authority to create a dispensary system for medical marijuana — that is, we think, a debatable legal question — we don’t think they should. That is an issue voters ought to decide.

The dispensary system that has sprouted of its own accord in the last seven months looks to us like a backdoor effort to legalize marijuana. Voters demonstrated in 2006 that they did not support legalization when they overwhelmingly shot down a ballot question on the issue.

We’re not sure how they would respond to a measure creating a dispensary system. We hope they get the chance to weigh in on the matter in a straightforward ballot question. That would clear up the ambiguity lawmakers currently find themselves wrestling with in House Bill 1284, which they took up last week in a marathon hearing.

The bill creates a state licensing authority and regulatory scheme for dispensaries, hundreds of which have cropped up in the state since the summer. For much of the last decade, the medical marijuana system appears to have operated in ways that roughly comported with the constitutional amendment voters approved in 2000.

The state limited caregivers to five patients each, and dispensaries, which are not mentioned anywhere in the constitutional amendment, were nowhere to be seen.

A couple of events changed that. First, the state Board of Health last summer declined to formalize its five-patient limit. Second, the Obama administration said it would relax enforcement of federal drug laws where medical marijuana operations were concerned so long as they followed state laws legitimizing them.

Those events resulted in a symbiotic explosion of medical marijuana cardholders and dispensaries that serve them.

The result is nothing like the measure sold to voters in 2000, which was pitched as small-scale use for very ill people.

Along with 1284, there is another, less controversial bill in the legislature that brings clarity to the physician-patient relationship and ensures doctors recommending medical marijuana use are practitioners in good standing.

We like that Senate Bill 109 also gives investigators access to the medical marijuana patient registry to determine whether doctors are following the rules in recommending patients for medical marijuana use. This bill is close to the finish line in the legislative process and has not generated a lot of heat.

The bigger fight is going to be over HB 1284. In attempting to throw a regulatory harness on the prickly issue of dispensaries, the bill manages to alienate groups on opposite sides of the battle — those who want dispensaries to operate with less oversight, and those, us included, who don’t think there is authority for them to exist.

We realize the bill is the result of compromise. But we think voters ought to have a chance to be heard before lawmakers create a medical marijuana landscape their constituents never envisioned.  Source.

One response to “Colorado: Listen to Voters on Medical Marijuana”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *