Medical marijuana vote a victory for patients
the denver post
A proposal that would have effectively shut down medical-marijuana dispensaries was rejected Monday night by the Colorado Board of Health.
In addition to voting down a plan to limit medical-marijuana caregivers to five patients each, the board also refused to require that caregivers help patients with daily activities. The board did, however, agree to changes meant to prevent fraud – and left the door open to revisiting the cap on patients another time.
The decision, which came after 12 hours of testimony and deliberations, was met with a loud cheer from the 50 or so people remaining in the audience on the Auraria campus, which had numbered 500 at the start of the day. People stood up, jumped up and down and screamed.
“We’re happy the board did the compassionate thing,” said Brian Vicente, the director of Sensible Colorado, a pro-marijuana nonprofit advocacy group. “This is a win for Coloradan sick patients and the voters.”
Opponents of the changes, particularly the proposal to cap the number of patients a caregiver could have at five, said the proposals would have potentially cut off access for about 7,630 Coloradans registered as patients who can legally use the drug. Currently, caregivers sometimes take the form of dispensaries serving hundreds of patients.
Ned Calonge, the state health department’s chief medical officer, said the patient-cap proposal was based on the number that a caregiver can reasonably handle daily. Other supporters, including police officers and representatives of anti-drug groups, emphasized the proposal’s usefulness in helping law-enforcement officers control unlicensed pot-growing operations.
Patients, meanwhile, spoke of what access to marijuana had meant to them.
Jonathan Edens, an Iraq war veteran, was one of the 350 who signed up to testify at the meeting.
“When I came back from the war, I had real bad PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) and torn ligaments,” said Edens, a Colorado Springs
Michael Hartanto, left, stands and cheers with others in the audience Monday after a state board rejected changes that would have limited medical-marijuana distributors to no more than five patients at a time. (John Leyba, The Denver Post )
resident. “I was so addicted to pills, I couldn’t even look at myself in the mirror without being disgusted. Now that I’ve started smoking marijuana, I’ve dropped 50 pounds and am off most of the medication I was on.”
Although Calonge told the board that his patient-cap recommendation was based on significant research into the number of patients a caregiver could visit in a day, several board members said they did not have enough information to accept his assessment.
After voting to reject the five-patient cap, the board briefly discussed whether a higher number should instead be imposed. They decided to pose the question to a stakeholder group that would gather more information.
Three of the nine board members voted for the cap,
Rick Spiegel of Centennial had signed up to speak on behalf of his wife, Kim, who says marijuana is the only thing that eases suffering from a post-stroke complication called thalamic pain syndrome. (Kathryn Scott Osler, The Denver Post )
including the board’s president, Glenn Schlabs .
“I don’t believe we need to model our rule-making on comments of the people who came forward to speak today,” he said. “I don’t feel compelled to fashion regulation that appeals to you. That’s why we’re the board of health.”
Rick Spiegel of Centennial was one of those who signed up to speak, but his wife, Kim, who has post-stroke thalamic pain syndrome, was so tired that they left before their number was called.
“She’s been to about five different doctors, and all the drugs they gave her never worked for her syndrome,” Spiegel said. “The only thing that helped it was marijuana.”
Claire Trageser: 303-954-1638 or firstname.lastname@example.org
What has changed on the medical-marijuana rule
Patients must provide a copy of a secure and verifiable identity document when applying for medical marijuana. A patient changing an address or primary caregiver must submit a notarized form.
7,630 registered patients in Colorado. That number could rise to 15,000 this year, a state official says.
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