Weeding out the ‘knuckleheads’

Sen. Chris Romer’s colorful characterization of some people operating medical marijuana dispensaries as “knuckleheads” who view their shops as a first step toward complete legalization of pot is unfortunately accurate.

We hope Romer’s prediction is equally on the mark about legislation that passed the Senate this week: It will get rid of the knuckleheads and limit medical marijuana dispensaries to legitimate business people.

There’s no question some order needs to be established for the Wild West atmosphere that has pervaded the medical marijuana business the past year. Dispensaries were springing up seemingly on every street corner in the Grand Valley and other communities for a time, and neither the state nor local authorities had much in the way of regulations to control them.

The initial boom in dispensary openings appears to have diminished greatly in the past few months. Perhaps that is due to saturation of the medical marijuana market, as some have suggested. Or maybe potential dispensary owners are holding off on opening new businesses because of uncertainty over what the Legislature will do.

In any case, we are pleased to see the Legislature moving forward with a bill that requires criminal background checks on owners and employees of dispensaries, and prohibits those with drug-related convictions from working in them.

It’s also important that the bill gives cities and counties the ability to ban dispensaries within their borders (but not individual medical-marijuana caregivers). It’s critical that it specifies locations where dispensaries may not operate and that it requires disclosure of chemicals in all marijuana products.

We don’t agree with Sen. Josh Penry that medical marijuana sales should be exempt from sales taxes. Medical marijuana is, after all, not a prescription medicine and certainly not a life-preserving requirement like, say, blood thinners for heart patients. It is an option that some patients may utilize if a physician believes it might help curb pain, nausea or discomfort for them.

There’s no good reason the state shouldn’t extract tax revenue from the sale of such a product.

However, there’s every reason for lawmakers to quickly iron out differences between the House and Senate version of the bill so that Colorado can begin to weed out the knuckleheads in the medical marijuana business.


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