Officials argue merits of medical pot ban

Ban medical marijuana centers in Mesa County, and you’ll drive the drug into neighborhoods unchecked and make it more difficult for patients to access medicine to which they’re legally entitled, County Commissioner Janet Rowland warned.

Fail to prohibit the commercial sale of medical marijuana, and you’ll effectively license people to commit a federal felony crime, Chief Deputy District Attorney Dan Rubinstein countered.

Two county leaders who serve on both state and county methamphetamine task forces differed on the handling of another drug during a Redlands Rotary Club debate Friday at the Redlands Mesa Golf clubhouse.

The 45-minute debate came four days before voters will decide whether medical marijuana centers should be allowed to continue to operate in Mesa County.

Rowland said new state laws regulate medical marijuana centers more strictly than traditional pharmacies, and counties and municipalities can choose to restrict them even further. She said she prefers that option over an outright ban that she predicts would lead to a “free-for-all” involving illicit drug dealers growing marijuana everywhere.

“It’s going to be much more difficult to keep a hand on it,” Rowland said.

She claimed patients will have a difficult time obtaining medical marijuana legally because new laws limit the number of patients caregivers can have and prohibit them from profiting.

“How many businesses would you own if you could only have five customers and you couldn’t profit off of it?” Rowland asked.

Rubinstein, though, said while Amendment 20 gave patients the right to use and possess marijuana for medicinal purposes, it didn’t authorize the formation of medical marijuana centers or distribution of the drug. He noted the amendment also conflicts with federal law.

“We have to resolve this conflict, but licensing somebody to commit a federal crime isn’t the way to do it,” Rubinstein said.

He said it’s harder to regulate commercial centers than caregivers, noting caregivers have to have vested interest in patients’ well-being and tailor their products to meet their patients’ needs.

“When you go to a dispensary, you don’t know what you’re getting,” he said.

Furthermore, Rubinstein said the proliferation of medical marijuana has boosted the acceptance and availability of the drug, legal or not.

While he said he doesn’t blame medical marijuana dispensaries, he referenced two felony cases he is handling involving marijuana.

One involves an attempted-murder case in which a man is accused of firing a number of gunshots at a vehicle in downtown Grand Junction in an attempt to collect a medical-marijuana debt.

The other concerns a father who allegedly blew marijuana smoke into the faces of his two elementary-school-age daughters and helped them smoke it.

“The issue is at what point do we start to read the most expansive version of the Constitution? Now is not the time, and it’s not responsible,” he said.


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