Dispensary debate opens at the capitol
the denver post
As state lawmakers prepared for their first debate over a bill regulating medical-marijuana dispensaries Thursday, a group of marijuana activists gathered outside the Capitol to denounce the proposal.
“Do not be fooled,” attorney Rob Corry told the crowd. “Some elements of the government are trying to take away your constitutional rights.”
The bill – House Bill 1284 – would impose new licensing and regulatory rules on the state’s rapidly expanding medical-marijuana industry. It was introduced early last month and was suppose to receive its first public hearing Thursday, in the House Judiciary Committee, after lawmakers spent the past several weeks negotiating changes to the measure.
A rewrite of the bill expected to be unveiled at the hearing Thursday will require dispensaries to be licensed with the state and local governments and to grow most of the marijuana they sell. But the new version would also allow for separate licenses for marijuana-growing facilities tied to dispensaries – which could sell a portion of what they grow to other dispensaries – and for marijuana product-makers. Perhaps the biggest change is dispensaries would be allowed to operate as for-profit companies, whereas previous drafts required dispensaries to be nonprofits.
The bill would also give local governments the authority to ban dispensaries in their communities.
Lawmakers say the bill is needed to ensure Colorado’s medical-marijuana industry operates responsibly. Law-enforcement groups have expressed dismay that the bill would allow dispensaries, which they believe promote abuse of the system, to remain. Some marijuana advocates have said the bill will hurt patient access to marijuana. Meanwhile, a lobbying group of dispensary owners has expressed cautious optimism about the proposal.
Outside the Capitol Thursday, about 50 marijuana activists crowded onto the steps. Some held signs criticizing the bill, while others held signs advocating for total legalization of marijuana. A few smoked joints or passed around marijuana pipes. One man held up a sign that read, “HB 1284 will hurt me.” Asked how, he deferred to event organizers.
Miguel Lopez, one of the organizers, said the bill is too restrictive.
“They don’t get the facts,” Lopez said of lawmakers. “They’re not listening.”
Sensible Colorado, a medical-marijuana patient advocacy group, raised particular concerns over a portion of the bill that would prohibit medical-marijuana patients from possessing or using marijuana at or near a school. The group worries that could bar patients from so much as living near a school.
Patient Jason Lauve said he was disappointed to see marijuana use and legalization messages at the rally Thursday, saying they confuse the message. But he said the bill needs to take a more patient-focused approach concerned only with how to best get marijuana to patients who say they benefit from it.
“From seed to patient, there has to be a very tight pipeline,” Lauve said.
Amendment 20, passed in 2000, allows small amounts of marijuana to be used by patients suffering from a list of eight symptoms, provided they receive the endorsement of a physician and a license issued by the state.
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