Senate Committee Hashes Out Medical Marijuana Bill
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Senate Committee Hashes Out Medical Marijuana Bill
Posted by CN Staff on May 01, 2010 at 05:49:48 PT
By Ernest Luning, The Colorado Statesman
Source: Colorado Statesman
Denver -- A Colorado Senate committee grudgingly approved a bill to regulate medical marijuana dispensaries after more than eight hours of testimony that stretched nearly until midnight Tuesday. Noting that only a few witnesses supported the bill out of more than 100 who testified, lawmakers said House Bill 1284 needs some serious repair before it would win their final support.“This is the sausage-making, this is the process” said Senate Local Government and Energy Committee Chairwoman Gail Schwartz, D-Snowmass Village, as the hearing neared its conclusion and lawmakers prepared to vote. 
Earlier, Schwartz threatened several times to shut down the hearing when medical marijuana advocates became belligerent on the witness stand, including one man who said he hoped the politicians would “choke” if they passed the bill.Tempers are running high as the General Assembly nears its final weeks in session without finished legislation to set rules for Colorado’s burgeoning medical marijuana industry. Legislators had hoped to tackle the question early in the session before moving on to the state’s budget crisis, but the chief authors of pending medical marijuana bills, Sen. Chris Romer, D-Denver, and Rep. Tom Massey, R-Poncha Springs, have found no agreement between competing interests — chiefly law enforcement and medical marijuana patients and caregivers — determined not to budge. And lurking behind all the activity are a handful of advocates determined to take the question to voters if lawmakers disappoint them.While some are steadfast in their opposition to HB 1284 — most law enforcement officials say regulating medical marijuana dispensaries contradicts the constitutional amendment passed by voters in 2000 that created the right for seriously ill patients to access the drug, and some patients and advocates believe any restrictions likewise will end up in court — nearly everyone was thrown for a loop when Romer unveiled substantial changes to the bill the House passed last week.Romer’s proposals include the ability for local governments to ban dispensaries outright, a requirement the retail outlets grow 70 percent of their own product, a tighter set of restrictions on who can obtain a dispensary license, and fees in the tens of thousands of dollars to legally sell medical marijuana. Another proposal would forbid patients under age 21 from dispensaries.If the bill’s going to get past Gov. Bill Ritter’s veto pen, it has to include “non-negotiables” worked out with the governor’s office, Romer said. “There are guard rails.”Ritter, a former district attorney, appears to be more willing to accept highly regulated dispensaries than other law enforcement officials, including Attorney General John Suthers and a phalanx of prosecutors, police and sheriffs, who say voters should have a say before dispensaries get state approval. Nearly unanimously, law enforcement representatives said the current situation was driving up crime and exposing youth to an easily accessible illegal drug.“Milk money has been replaced with drug money,” said Adams County sheriff’s deputy Jon Van Zandt.“This is not a political issue,” Jefferson County District Attorney Scott Storey told the committee, “it’s a public safety issue. Legalizing dispensaries is tantamount to legalizing distribution of marijuana.” He went on to urge lawmakers to “dump this bill” and instead refer a measure on dispensaries to voters.As unappetizing as this brand of legislative sausage may be, it’s not a set of questions lawmakers can put off, Romer said. Civic groups believe “the bill has to pass,” he said, “or the governor will have to call a special session.”Laura Kriho of the Cannabis Therapy Institute urged lawmakers instead to create a commission to set rules, but after the committee passed the bill, she lamented the development “This is a sad day for patients,” she wrote in an e-mail. “Not only have they been sold out by their lawmakers, but they have been sold out by well-funded dispensaries, and they have been sold out by so-called patient rights groups. This bill will destroy patients’ access to their medicine, drive prices up, and force patients back into the black market.”With so much discontent and disagreement, some lawmakers said the bill wasn’t yet near the finish line but agreed to push it forward.“I have many problems with this bill,” said Sen. Linda Newell, D-Littleton, minutes before the panel voted unanimously to wave the bill on to the Senate Appropriations Committee. “I have a whole list of unintended consequences.”The lack of support for the bill “speaks extremely loudly,” she said. “I don’t want to derail tonight, but if these (problems) aren’t fixed, I’d rather have a bill that’s silent on some of these things and allow the rules process to work these things out with some of the stakeholders, than to have it too proscriptive (and) wrong.”Sen. Ken Kester, R- Las Animas, agreed with Newell, at least in broad terms. “There’s a lot of things that need to happen to this bill before I feel comfortable with it,” he said, adding he’d vote it out of committee but that was the last vote sponsors could count on. “I hope you don’t bring another bill back to this committee while I’m on the committee,” he told Romer with a smile.“We don’t write too many bills in uncharted territory,” Romer said as the committee prepared to adjourn. Because Colorado is one of the first states to tackle such explosive growth in the medical marijuana field, Romer reminded fellow lawmakers the state didn’t have other laws as guides. “We do need to work harder because there are people who will follow us,” he said.Source: Colorado Statesman (CO)Author: Ernest Luning, The Colorado StatesmanPublished: April 30, 2010Copyright: 2010 The Colorado StatesmanURL: Ernest coloradostatesman.comWebsite: Medical Marijuana Archives 
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Comment #5 posted by FoM on May 01, 2010 at 10:21:38 PT
Weighing The Benefits of Medical Marijuana
May 1, 2010URL:
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Comment #4 posted by Sam Adams on May 01, 2010 at 10:19:26 PT
>>This is not a political issue, Jefferson County District Attorney Scott Storey told the committee, its a public safety issue. Legalizing dispensaries is tantamount to legalizing distribution of marijuana. He went on to urge lawmakers to dump this bill and instead refer a measure on dispensaries to voters.Oh? sort of like the Maine referendum last November that won by 17 points? He's stalling, the voters already approved dispensaries once and they'll do it again. They all think the bill is terrible but they want to pass it. If it's terrible and they're honest people they should vote against it and do nothing.
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Comment #3 posted by The GCW on May 01, 2010 at 07:48:09 PT
House Bill 1284, Romer and the sausage GOTTA GO.
"only a few witnesses supported the bill out of more than 100 who testified"
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Comment #2 posted by Canis420 on May 01, 2010 at 06:31:29 PT:
The White House Drug Czar's Diminished Status
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Comment #1 posted by runruff on May 01, 2010 at 06:02:57 PT
A letter from ASA;
The last few weeks I've been unveiling a new section from our strategic plan, ASAs National Strategy, focusing on our federal goals. I told you that we we're working towards a 2013 federal victory and we began to outline the actions that will get us there. An equally meaningful piece to our strategic plan is our State Campaigns and today I want to highlight our vision for securing safe access in the states.  ASAs commitment to safe access for every American is unwavering. I'd like you take a moment to imagine what it would be like for ASA to be on the ground in your home state. Imagine us creating the field necessary to pass legislation-expanding our grassroots base to be a potent force in local and national politics. Picture us fighting your local legislators and courts until every patient had safe and legal access to medical cannabis, and empowering activists and organizers across the state to build a movement that will win. Envision your state becoming part of ASAs localized planning and policy advising, benefiting from ASAs winning record of impact legislation and participating in ASAs strategic education campaigns. Imagine ASA with you in every fight until we win; and we will win.  Our first step in bringing this vision to life is to implement a very ambitious plan to win safe access state by state. This plan will cost us $250,000 to implement-not an overwhelming sum when you go back and look at what that'll accomplish. If each state raised just $5,000 we'd be able to turn that vision into a reality. We'd be able to win!  Our larger roadmap to victory is built on the belief that our movement is strongest when it's connected to its grassroots. Changing federal policy and winning state-by-state is going to require a lot more grassroots action. I want you to be even more active in joining us in that fight. The best way to get your state on its way to victory is by becoming a member, or increasing your membership contribution, today.  As always, thank you for your support, Steph ShererExecutive Director PSThe first state to raise $5,000 will get a personal visit from me where I'll host a town hall and we'll get down to the details of how we're going to win in your state. 
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