Changes in the Medical Marijuana Law in Colorado were passed on Wednesday by the Colorado Board of Health by a unanimous vote. The rules were changed in front of a crowd that was clearly against the new rules. The only people testifying for the changes were members of law enforcement.
The bulk of testimony before the vote came from patients, activists and caregivers that urged the Board to vote against the proposed changes. Changes to Amendment 20, the state constitutional amendment that gives qualified Colorado citizens the legal right to consume cannabis for medical reasons, have frustrated some.
The changes to the law will affect those who are caregivers for medical marijuana patients. “Caregiver” is a designation that allows someone assisting a medical marijuana patient to handle the cannabis, transport, acquire and often grow it. The changes suggest there must be a closer relationship between patient and caregiver that go outside the bounds of cannabis, such as providing transportation to the patient, or doing housekeeping or meal preparation for their patients.
The actual language states, “The act of supplying medical marijuana is insufficient to constitute significant responsibility for managing the well-being of a patient who has a debilitating medical condition.”
Some testified that the changes mean that people who are skilled at cultivation are now being asked to act like therapists, and that the new law suggests that caregivers have professional skills to act as a home health care workers without being paid for it. The new rule does not affect marijuana dispensaries, since they are regulated by a different set of laws.
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According to the Denver Post, there are approximately 16,000 registered caregivers in the state that can help provide marijuana to patients that have no access to a dispensary or cannot grow cannabis themselves.
The law seemingly aims at caretakers who provide medical cannabis for a handful of patients, the so-called “mom and pop” providers, not dispensaries, but someone who has the skill set, the means and the space to grow marijuana for a few people. This new law will vastly change that relationship between providers and their patients.
Law Enforcement, who were in favor of the rule changes, claim that the new rule is not intended to interfere with legitimate caregivers, but to clarify the distinction between a medical marijuana caregiver and an illegal drug dealer that uses the caregiver clause as a cover to sell marijuana to anyone for a profit.
One Caregiver who spoke to the Denver Post yesterday called the new rules highly impractical, saying that they create too big of a burden on the already struggling caregiver. She said she makes no money providing medical marijuana for people, that she does it because she cares about sick people.
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The rules will go into effect at the end of July. It is unclear how law officials will enforce this new rule change. Also, one more change in the law that came yesterday; patients who are no longer suffering from a debilitating condition must return their medical marijuana card within 24 hours of the diagnosis.