Finally A Victory for MMJ - Pot Measure Smoked

source: Denver Daily News

by Gene Davis
A measure that would have given voters the chance to essentially shut down retail medical marijuana dispensaries was killed yesterday in a Senate committee hearing.

A resolution proposed by GOP lawmakers that would have defined a medical marijuana caregiver in the state constitution was voted down 4-3 in the Senate Judiciary Committee. If passed by lawmakers and approved by voters, the resolution would have essentially snuffed out the medical marijuana dispensary model that has cropped up over the past year and a half.

“I believe when voters approved medical marijuana in 2000 that they did not envision a pot dispensary on every street corner,” Sen. Scott Renfroe, R-Greeley, said in a statement prior to the committee hearing. “There are more medical marijuana dispensaries in Denver than Starbucks locations. The people deserve the opportunity to tell us if that is what they wanted.”

However, medical marijuana activists like Kevin Grimsinger Ń a war veteran who lost two limbs while serving in Afghanistan Ń believes the dispensary model helps ensure that marijuana is affordable for patients. His electric bill jumped by more than $200 when he tried to grow his own marijuana. Additionally, the marijuana that dispensaries are able to grow and sell is of a higher quality than the marijuana most patients are able to grow to treat their ailments, he said.

“Marijuana is a weed, anyone can grow it, but very few people can grow it right,” he said during the committee hearing.

Despite two medical marijuana reform bills that are making their way through the Legislature, many in the law enforcement community think the state is not doing enough to slow down Colorado’s fastest growing industry. North Metro Task Force Commander Jerry Peters argued during yesterday’s committee hearing that even regulating the industry wouldn’t shut down most of the medical marijuana dispensaries in Colorado’s neighborhoods.

Medical marijuana attorney Brian Vicente, however, pointed out that the medical marijuana cardholders, of which there are more than 60,000 in Colorado, would still have a right to their constitutionally protected medicine even if dispensaries were shut down. As such, he believes getting rid of dispensaries would significantly increase the number of caregivers throughout the state.

“The sort of grand irony of this bill is that it is being pushed by law enforcement, but what they’re doing is taking a small controlled number of dispensaries and they would want to specifically remove that and disperse those grows to every community,” he said during the committee hearing.

Meanwhile, Dr. Christian Thurstone, the medical director of the adolescent substance abuse treatment program at Denver Health, said the dispensary model is increasing the availability of marijuana to kids. Research shows that about one in six teenagers who try marijuana get addicted and are more likely to engage in risky sexual behavior and drop out of school, according to Thurstone. Children being referred to treatment for marijuana tripled last year compared to 2008, he added.

Jeff Blue, who appeared at the committee hearing on behalf of Attorney General John Suthers, added that voters should have the chance to weigh in on the retail dispensary model. The constitutional amendment passed by voters in 2000 gave seriously ill patients the right to use medical marijuana in Colorado, although the manner in which they could get the medicine was not detailed.

However, Kayvan Khalatbari, owner of Denver Pain Relief, argued that lots of people had lots of ideas about what would come from Amendment 20.

“I think the voters voted on giving people safe access to medicine, and that’s what it really comes down to,” he said.

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