Legislators OK rules on dispensaries

Bill imposing license fees on its way to Ritter's desk

DENVER — At first, the Colorado House wanted a conference committee to be formed to iron out differences it had with the Senate over a bill to regulate medical marijuana dispensaries.

But when enough senators told House members they would rather kill the bill than do so, representatives thought better of the committee’s idea and accepted the Senate’s changes instead.

As a result, a measure that could reduce the number of dispensaries in the state by requiring them to abide by stringent regulations is on its way to the governor’s desk.

“This has been a long, torturous process, and we are within a few feet now of the finish line,” Rep. Daniel Kagan, D-Denver, told his fellow lawmakers. “Yes, there are some things that the Senate has done that don’t meet with my entire approval. I’m sure they don’t meet with everyone’s approval, but after so long … I urge that we respect the work that has been done.”

With that, the House approved the new regulations on a 46-19 vote.

Under House Bill 1284, the many dispensaries that have cropped up in city after city across the state would have to pay $1,800 a year for a license to operate.

But to do so, their workers and owners must pass criminal-history checks, can’t have ever been convicted of a drug-related crime, can’t be located near places where children frequent, and must keep detailed records of their sales.

The centers also must grow their own marijuana, create secure areas where patients can purchase the weed, prohibit use of it on site and ensure that edible marijuana products are made in state-certified kitchens.

Several House members said they didn’t care for two changes the Senate included in the new regulations: requiring owners to have lived in Colorado for two years before opening a center; and an exemption that off-site grow operations wouldn’t be subject to the state’s open-records laws, allowing only the state and law enforcement to know where they are.

Some representatives also objected to a provision that allows local governments either to ban medical marijuana centers by ordinance or place before their residents ballot questions doing so.

Opponents said that would violate the constitutional amendment that legalized the medicinal herb, but supporters countered the bill also allows caregivers to serve more patients in areas that ban them. The bill limits those caregivers to servicing no more than five patients in areas that don’t ban dispensaries.

Currently, there are about 1,900 dispensaries operating in the state, but Sen. Chris Romer, the Denver Democrat who sponsored the bill, said he expects the new law to cut that down by about 50 percent.

He said that should be enough to serve the estimated 80,000 Coloradans who have medical marijuana cards.

A related bill that would clarify when doctors can approve patients’ use of medical marijuana cleared the Legislature last week. That measure is expected to reduce the number of people who have cards.

Both measures await action by Gov. Bill Ritter.


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