State senator targets medical marijuana for regulation

State Sen. Al White, R-Hayden, announced Friday he plans to introduce legislation that would implement a number of regulations on the growing medical marijuana industry.

The bill would give the state a monopoly on growing and distributing marijuana in an effort to keep black market marijuana out of the supply chain. It also would attempt to crack down on the illegal distribution of the drug by requiring a prescription to be filled by a licensed pharmacist.

“We don’t allow unlicensed people to simply open up a shop and sell controlled substances like Valium or Oxycontin — that’s why they call them ‘controlled substances,’ ” White said in a statement. “So, why are we allowing that to happen with medical marijuana?”

Colorado voters in 2000 approved a constitutional amendment legalizing medical use of marijuana for specific conditions. But state legislators largely left it up to counties and municipalities to govern the establishment and operation of dispensaries.

The Colorado Board of Health this summer eliminated a limit on the number of patients a caretaker can have. That led to dispensaries sprouting across the state — and local governments scrambling to deal with them. The Grand Junction City Council on Nov. 16 will consider a 12-month moratorium on dispensaries so it can study the zoning, regulation and licensing of them.

Governments are concerned that dispensaries could act as a front for crime and hand out marijuana liberally to people who don’t qualify for medicinal use. White said the number of people holding medical marijuana cards has jumped from fewer than 2,000 two years ago to around 13,000 now.

“What we’ve effectively got now is de facto decriminalization of marijuana,” he said. “That is not what the people of this state voted for.”

Under White’s plan, the state would initially split the revenue from the sale of marijuana between a rainy-day fund and a special fund for colleges and universities. Should the rainy-day fund reach $1 billion, the revenue stream would be directed entirely to higher education.


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