Dispense with the nonsense on medical pot dispensaries

Some people in Colorado, including Colorado Attorney General John Suthers, want the state Legislature to stuff the medical marijuana genie back in the hookah.

Yes, Colorado voters approved Amendment 20 a decade ago to legalize medical marijuana, they say. But voters never envisioned the system that has sprung up, with medical marijuana dispensaries on seemingly every corner in many municipalities.

True enough. But the measure adopted by voters in 2000 also didn’t clearly identify how those with a right to medical marijuana were to legally obtain it. The dispensaries, which have developed in the past year in the wake of a decision from the Obama administration to make enforcement of federal marijuana laws a low priority, provide that needed legal resource.

Legislation being contemplated in the state Capitol would codify those dispensaries under state law and provide rules for regulating them.

We don’t agree with portions of the bill. Is it really necessary to try to turn all of the dispensaries into nonprofits — or force them to serve no more than five clients? The dispensaries sprang up very rapidly as a free-market response to what was clearly a significant public demand. Why try to penalize those free-market tendencies? Better to establish regulations that make it clear how for-profit businesses can operate to protect their clients and communities.

But even if the nonprofit requirement remains, the bill moving forward in the Legislature — that will recognize a legal right for some form of dispensaries to exist — is much better than trying to return to the old model, under which people were authorized to use medical marijuana but, in most cases, had to break the law to obtain it.


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