Colorado’s new rules for medical marijuana dispensaries are being called groundbreaking. They’re the nation’s most extensive for commercial sale of the drug. Regulators aim to track it from when the pot is planted to when a patient takes it.
Hearings are set for today and tomorrow. Colorado Public Radio Health Reporter Eric Whitney says, at this point, the regulators seem to be the only ones who really like the new rules.
WHITNEY: Laura Kriho’s Cannabis Therapy Institute in Boulder is an outspoken advocate for medical marijuana patients. And she’s skeptical of attempts to regulate the drug.
KRIHO: the government has lied to us about marijuana for 70 years, and as far as our group is concerned, we don’t think it’s going to stop lying about it overnight.
WHITNEY: Sgt. Jim Gerhardt is with the North Metro Drug Task Force in Thornton. They’re skeptical of legalizing medical marijuana.
GERHARDT: we thought this was a scam that was basically being perpetrated by people who wanted recreational use of marijuana, and were trying to get a foothold into that market.
WHITNEY: Sgt. Gerhard and Laura Kriho are about as far apart as people can be on this issue. But they agree on one thing: Having the Department of Revenue regulate it was a bad idea.
GERHARDT: I believe they are trying to act in the best interests of the people of Colorado, but marijuana is a commodity unlike any other commodity in terms of trying to regulate it. You can’t use the alcohol model, it doesn’t work. They’re trying to use a gambling/gaming model, like how you regulate a casino as a way to regulate these. I don’t know how there’s an analogy there, and I think the rules they have – we’re forever going to be finding gaps and holes and people are going to find ways around it.
WHITNEY: Regardless of whether marijuana activists or the police like it, though, the revenue department is now in charge of regulating dispensaries. Its draft rules aim to track every seed dispensaries plant, and every plant they harvest and sell, to make sure no surplus marijuana spills into the black market. Dispensaries will also have to document that pot is free of contaminants, and keep track of every sale, so only licensed users get medical marijuana, and in amounts that don’t exceed legal limits.
The Department of Revenue's Dan Hartman, who's in charge of writing the new rules says police, patient advocates and anyone else involved with dispensaries had a chance to help write the new rules.
HARTMAN: Twenty five people came together from all facets of the industry, patients, manufacturers, law enforcement, local govt, doctors, and everybody was kind of represented at the table.
WHITNEY: But patient advocate Laura Kriho says that doesn’t mean people at the table didn’t give up significant rights they had before. She says medical marijuana users should think hard about buying at dispensaries, because the new rules require them to give so much information about customers to a new government agency.
KRIHO: That’s gonna be up to their own personal level of how much do they trust the government, you know?
WHITNEY: But Sgt. Gerhjardt at the anti-drug task force says, don’t count on police having some kind of field day with all the new data.
GERHARDT: And I can tell you now, it is not necessarily gonna be in anyones best interests to divert a lot of law enforcement resources to sitting in front of a computer screen, watching a camera in however many dispensaries there are, I don’t even know what that would tell us.
WHITNEY: Revenue’s Dan Hartman says he understands that not everyone is going to like every rule, but that’s OK, because they’re not set in stone.
HARTMAN: we came up with a great body of rules to start out with, this is going to be an ongoing thing to build the rules, to make them the best they can be as we get into them and find that things need to be added to, or things just weren’t quite right the way we envisioned them, we can certainly go in and modify them.
WHITNEY: The dept of revenue has set aside today and tomorrow for public hearings on the rules.
Then it’s up to the Department to finalize them and get state lawyers to sign off on them. They’re expected to be fully in effect by July 1.