By "Radical" Russ Belville
(Denver Post) Gov. Bill Ritter signed into law today two bills regulating and legitimizing the state’s medical-marijuana industry.
The new law will require doctors to have completed a full assessment of the patient’s medical history, to talk with the patient about the medical condition that has caused them to seek marijuana and to be available for follow-up care. The law also prevents doctors from getting paid by dispensaries to write recommendations.
The reason people go to so-called “medical marijuana doctors” is because most of them have already had a full assessment by their doctor, but he or she won’t write a recommendation. Many doctors want to help their patients with cannabis, but cannot write a recommendation without losing their job, because of restrictions from insurance, HMOs, clinics, or hospitals they work with.
Because their own doctor cannot help, many patients gather their records — usually at least three years’ worth — that document their medical condition and take them to the “medical marijuana doctor”. So now we expect these people, many of them on fixed incomes, to pay for a whole new redundant set of examinations?
The law requires that dispensaries be licensed at both the state and local levels, and it allows local governments — or voters — to ban dispensaries and large-scale marijuana-growing operations in their communities.
Because when it comes to getting medical care to sick people, we ought to trust the will of the voters in every little conservative hick mountain town. Why stop there? How about votes to ban abortion services, alcohol rehabs, and free clinics for the “undesirables”who use them?
What this means is that your Colorado constitutional right to cannabis medicine will be subject to your geography. Live in Denver, you can probably get medicine, but live in Colorado Springs and you’re going to spend some gas money (which you have plenty of on a fixed income, right?)
The new law will place other requirements on dispensaries, as well. People convicted recently of a felony — or at all of a drug-related felony — will be barred from operating a dispensary.
Dispensaries require a constant and large supply of well-grown and well-harvested marijuana. Who has the best experience for the job? The felons convicted before medical marijuana of maintaining constant and large supplies of well-grown and well-harvested marijuana! With the stroke of a pen, the governor just decimated the potential pool of qualified dispensary operators.
People who have lived in Colorado for fewer than two years cannot open a new dispensary.
OK, so no people who got caught growing in the past AND nobody from out of state can open a new dispensary?
And all dispensaries must grow at least 70 percent of the marijuana they sell, meaning people currently operating as wholesale growers either have to partner with a dispensary or shut down.
Can you imagine telling a pharmacy they have to produce 70% of all their pills in-house?
Significantly from a legal standpoint, the law also makes a distinction between dispensaries and “primary caregivers” — small-scale marijuana providers whose work is protected in the state’s constitution. In order to qualify for that special protection now, caregivers can serve no more than five patients and grow no more than six plants per patient, in most cases. They must also register with the state.
There are numerous lawsuits pending regarding these laws. As long as we continue to make distinctions over whom we imprison for cannabis based on their health conditions, we’ll continue to see complex and restrictive laws that make healthcare more difficult for patients and do nothing to stop a few healthy people from exploiting the laws.