A doobie-ous limit

As a result of several government decisions last year, medical marijuana use and distribution has exploded in Colorado. Evidence of that is abundant in the growing number of medical marijuana dispensaries in Grand Junction and communities around the state.

That unexpected boom in medical marijuana dispensaries demands a legislative response and suitable regulations. But we don’t think state lawmakers can put the medical marijuana genie back in the baggie, much as some would like to do so.

Lawmakers need to establish rules for licensing medical marijuana dispensaries, determine who may operate them and ensure that both minors and surrounding neighborhoods are protected. As we noted last month, it’s much like attempting to create from scratch laws to regulate liquor sales.

One legislator, Sen. Chris Romer, D-Denver, has been working on a bill that attempts to accomplish that. But his efforts so far have met with little enthusiasm from either proponents of medical marijuana or law enforcement.

This week, another legislative proposal emerged, pushed by Rep. Tom Massey, R-Poncha Springs and supported by many in law enforcement. His idea is to limit the number of people a medical marijuana caregiver (or dispensary) can provide with marijuana, perhaps to as few as five patients. That would effectively shut down most of the dispensaries in the state, which make money by supplying a broad base of customers.

There are several problems with this approach.

First, there is nothing in the 2000 amendment approved by voters that limits the number of patients or customers that caregivers may supply with medical pot. There are only limits on how much marijuana an individual patient may possess and how much a caregiver may provide for each patient.

Also, a legal battle ensued on the Front Range last year when state health officials first considered a limit on the number of patients per customer, and later attempted to change the definition of a caregiver. A judge rejected that change, saying the health board acted without proper notice and didn’t consider the impact on those wanting to use medical pot. The legality of setting an arbitrary limit on the number of patients remains in question. It’s akin to giving people licenses to operate liquor stores or to practice medicine, then adding, “But you can only have five customers.”

There are legitimate concerns about the medical marijuana boom in this state, and where it may lead. That’s why we believe responsible regulation is necessary.

But for legislators or law enforcement officials to essentially say, “We don’t want so many people taking advantage of this legal medicine and we’re going to try to severely curtail it” is contrary to what voters approved and is on shaky ground, constitutionally.


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