Pot dispensers praise health board decision
A Colorado state health board decision Monday to reject a proposed five-patient limit for medical marijuana suppliers was met with applause by two area dispensers who were closely monitoring the day’s proceedings.
“It was kind of what I expected, given the number of people who testified,” said Joey Jones, who began operating Colorado Mountain Dispensary (C.M.D.) in Carbondale earlier this month.
Jones said he wasn’t able to attend the hearing, held on the University of Colorado Auraria Campus in Denver, but was receiving updates throughout the day from someone who was on hand.
After about 12 hours of testimony and deliberations, the board voted 6-3 Monday night to defeat the patient limit proposal by the state health department. Numerous other rules aimed at regulating medical marijuana patients and providers were adopted by the board.
Gregg Davis, who began operating a medical marijuana dispensary from his Therapeutic Herbal Center in Grand Junction, was among the 500 or so people at the hearing.
“I’ve signed on 200 patients in just the last two months,” Davis said. “If the decision had gone the other way, I would have had to come in today and call 195 of them and say I can’t help you.”
He told the story of one 85-year-old man with AIDS who testified, saying that if the patient limit passed he would have been forced onto the streets to find marijuana by illegal means.
“That’s what it would have done to a lot of people,” Davis said. “It would have turned them out onto the streets again.”
Davis applauded one of the rules that was adopted by the board aimed at fighting fraud. Starting Aug. 30, all registered medical marijuana patients will have to get their signatures notarized on applications for the medical marijuana registry.
In general, many dispensary operators saw the new rules that were adopted Monday as a positive regulatory step to legitimize what Colorado voters intended when they passed Amendment 20 nine years ago.
Under the state’s medical marijuana law, patients with certain conditions, including HIV, muscle spasms and chronic pain, can use medical marijuana as long as they get a doctor’s approval and register with the state. The law permits patients or their designated caregivers to grow up to six marijuana plants or possess two ounces of usable marijuana.
The state’s chief medical officer, Ned Calonge, said after the hearing that he didn’t know if the department would try to propose another limit on how many patients could be served by a supplier. He testified before the board that the state’s medical marijuana program would “continue to grow out of control” without more restrictive rules.
Calonge clarified, however, that the amendment defines a caregiver as a person, and said he didn’t think a dispensary should be considered a caregiver under the law.
There are 9,112 people registered to use medical marijuana in Colorado, up 2,000 just in the last month.
He credited the growth to the confidentiality of Colorado’s registry and to the Obama administration’s announcement that it would no longer raid medical marijuana facilities.
Jones said that, as word has gotten out about C.M.D. in Carbondale, requests for medical marijuana have “exploded.”
“Once people go through the process to register as a patient and make me their caregiver, I can produce medicine to them,” he said.
Jones also said he has not heard one negative comment in the community since opening the dispensary.
(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)
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