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Pick A Side: Medical Marijuana Debate Drags On


Nug of the Month: Aug 2008
Like a bad flashback, the debate over just what to do about medical marijuana just keeps coming back to haunt politicians, law enforcement officials, dispensaries and patients.

Even after the passage of Amendment 20 in 2000, Colorado politicians can’t seem to fine tune the legislation to the approval of everyone involved and this week was no exception as hundreds of people showed up at the Capital Building Wednesday to debate the latest amendment, House Bill 1284, which seeks to make medical marijuana dispensary owners foot the bill for hiring regulatory officers and make them grow the marijuana they sell themselves.

The hearing was held in front of the Local Government and Energy Committee.

Other items in the bill, co-sponsored by Sen. Chris Romer (D-Denver), seek to add a new provision that all dispensary owners be Colorado residents for at least two years prior to opening the business, mandatory background checks and the re-introduction of a provision (originally removed by the House) that people under 21 get two referrals before being issued a medical marijuana card.

There are as many opinions as there were people packed into the room for the hearing that reportedly lasted past midnight, so you had a lot of sides to choose from: law enforcement officials who backed the bill because they believed the amendments would force many of the dispensaries out of business, other law enforcement officials who thought the bill would do the opposite and legitimize the business and lead to more crime, district attorneys and Attorney General John Suthers who also believe the bill would legitimize the business and, of course, dispensaries and patients. You can probably guess what side they stand on.

Mark Simon testified on behalf of the state’s disabled community, many of whom make use of medical marijuana to alleviate some of the pain associated with their individual conditions, and told the Denver Daily News there is no data to support the claims of medical marijuana abuse, adding. “I’m concerned that we’re making policy based on guesses.”

Brian Vicente, an advocate attorney for medical marijuana patients, said Romer’s bill and the idea that it would reign in an unruly business is redundant

“Sen. Romer has talked a lot about chaos in the medical marijuana industry," Vicente said. “To us, chaos is sending sick people to street corners and alleys to get medicine. A store-front operating business that's paying taxes and regulated in the community is the opposite of chaos. … We need strict regulations for these organizations, but we do not need to regulate them out of existence.”

But Romer was adamant in his belief that the medical marijuana industry needed a Marshal Dillon to take control.

“Today is the day we begin to get control of the Wild West," Romer said. “Today we're going to bring the medical marijuana industry out of the shadows, but we're going to do it in a very tough regulatory environment. This is the controlling and growing and dispensing of a controlled substance, which means it needs to be regulated and highly-regulated.”

Romer even went so far as to evoke images of drug cartels and the Mob infiltrating the industry unless action was taken immediately.

“(T)he cartels and the drug dealers and mob is going to want nothing to do with this business,” he said. “And I'm not going to use taxpayer money to fund those agents. The industry has to pay for those agents. If they can't afford those fees, then they shouldn't be in the business.

The bill now heads to the full Senate.

NewsHawk: Ganjarden: 420 MAGAZINE
Source: Examiner.com
Author: Kenneth Green
Contact: Examiner.com
Copyright: 2010 Clarity Digital Group LLC d/b/a Examiner.com
Website: Pick a side: Medical marijuana debate drags on

* Thanks to MedicalNeed for submitting this article
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