Seeking Clarity on Medical Marijuana
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Seeking Clarity on Medical Marijuana
Posted by CN Staff on September 20, 2009 at 05:30:03 PT
By Stan Garnett
Source: Daily Camera
Boulder, Colo. -- As District Attorney for the 20th Judicial District, I am committed to having the most progressive approach to medical marijuana of any DA`s office in the state. Although it has been reported that I am commencing a "war on MM patients," nothing could be further from the truth. I have been raising issues that must be clarified. I would like to see these issues clarified outside of the context of a criminal prosecution, unlike many of my more conservative elected DA colleagues across the state who are preparing to approach the issue quite aggressively by prosecuting dispensaries and seizing grow operations. As anyone who has thought about these issues knows, it does no good to put our heads in the sand about how confusing the law is.
Amendment 20, which I voted for, passed in 2000. Amendment 20 authorizes two things: licensees to obtain a MM license from a physician for a list of ailments, some of which are fairly general and, some would say, somewhat subjective. And, it authorizes a "caregiver" to provide the marijuana. It says nothing about dispensaries and, other than permitting a licensee to presumptively possess a small number of plants or amount of marijuana, it says nothing at all about where the licensee is to obtain the marijuana or whether it is legal to engage in large scale commercial grows. There are respectable arguments that dispensaries are legal under Amendment 20, and there are also respectable arguments that they are not and, until the courts, or a new constitutional amendment clears it up, the debate between lawyers and legal scholars will continue.Medical marijuana proceeded on a small scale in Colorado, over the last several years, until two things happened this year:1. The Obama administration announced that it would not prosecute possession and small scale sale of marijuana in states that had a medical marijuana law (a decision I support), even though the federal law continues to prohibit it; and2. The Department of Health did not adopt regulations at a hearing in July, which hasn`t cleared anything up. (Their previous effort to adopt regulations was found to conflict unconstitutionally with the terms of Amendment 20.)We are now seeing a proliferation of dispensaries in Boulder County. However, since there are no regulations requiring dispensaries to register, it is hard to know how many. There are at least two on University Hill, and an estimated 14 in the county. Many are trying very hard to be responsible business owners and at least three have had their lawyers meet with me. I have assured them that I will not prosecute dispensaries since I don`t want the obvious lack of clarity about their operations to be resolved in a criminal context. The BOCO Drug Task Force agrees with me.Here are some questions I have regarding Amendment 20:Is large scale commercial growing legal? We have received notice of an operator wanting to put a large grow in a warehouse across from a middle school in Longmont. Is this legal? This was the operation that caused me to wonder aloud to the Daily Camera whether a declaratory or injunctive action could help clear things up without putting anyone at risk of a felony conviction, an idea that was well received by a number of MM lawyers, though not by others, who accused me of a "war on patients." The dispensaries argue that if they are entitled to dispense the marijuana legally, they implicitly have the right to get it from somewhere. This is an argument that could be made in a civil court of law. Are dispensaries legal? How large can they be? Who regulates to make sure that they are dispensing the right amounts to the right people? Who regulates their advertisements (e.g., the back page of the Boulder Weekly, about which I have had many complaints. Many dispensaries quite openly offer kickbacks and incentives to potential licensees (particularly CU students) that would be totally illegal for a pharmacy or other business. If dispensary owners are "caregivers" what needs to be done to assure that their employees can handle and dispense marijuana legally? Are the employees caregivers as well? Many have interpreted "caregiver" under Amendment 20 as someone providing other services to the patient, not just the supplier of MM. Because of the high cash value of marijuana and the large amount of cash on the premises of some of the dispensaries, the Drug Task Force is concerned about threats of violence and other crime around the dispensary operations, many of which are in residential areas. We have already had one robbery out of a dispensary.Colorado continues to have sweeping anti-marijuana laws on the books, prohibiting the sale, use and possession of marijuana (many of which conflict directly, until the courts, or somebody sorts them out, with the current dispensary and grow operations). If the legislature doesn`t step forward, either to legalize marijuana entirely, or to otherwise clear up the confusion, what role is law enforcement to take in enforcing these laws?These are all interesting issues to me, and under the Constitution, it is part of my job to raise and publicly discuss areas where the law is unclear, which is why I have raised these issues about medical marijuana.Stan Garnett is the Boulder County District Attorney.Source: Daily Camera (Boulder, CO)Author:  Stan Garnett Published: September 20, 2009Copyright: 2009 The Daily CameraWebsite: openforum dailycamera.comURL: Medical Marijuana Archives
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Comment #3 posted by augustwest on September 20, 2009 at 19:40:01 PT:
colorado leo's
Does anyone know if the leo's in jefferson county are this reasonable.
Christ, The sign industry is full of tokers.
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Comment #2 posted by Hope on September 20, 2009 at 08:13:59 PT
Stan Garnett, District Attorney
The man sounds astoundingly open minded to me for a District Attorney. I can see his points, considering his occupation in law enforcement and the way things are right now with laws that run from one end to the other of the punishing and legal gamut.Christ, I can't imagine what the answer to your question might be except that there would be more people likely being regular or occasional cannabis consumers in occupations that didn't require a lot of drug testing.
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Comment #1 posted by christ on September 20, 2009 at 06:28:48 PT
DA playing both sides of the fence. Career ideas.
At first glance this article seems to be unusually neutral. But the DA, trying to protect his own job, seems to be throwing the unchallengeable items (like, "I voted with the majority") to the pro-freedom side, while directing future debates in favor of the prohibition camp. Off topic... 
I'd like some CNews opinions as to what jobs expose people to more cannabis friends. I'm more interested in jobs that employ a larger number of people. For example, a rock star might have constant access, but there are probably way more pizza delivery people or bartenders than rock stars.
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