Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Colorado Makes Strides in Marijuana Reform

This week, Colorado became the first state to enact a regulatory system for pre-existing medical marijuana dispensaries. In 2009, when President Obama advised against targeting those in clear compliance with state medical marijuana laws, fear seemed to dissipate as the number of dispensaries in Colorado began to rapidly increase. H.B. 1284, the dispensary regulation bill sponsored by Rep. Tom Massey (R-Poncha Springs) and signed into law on June 7 by Gov. Bill Ritter (D), creates a clear licensing scheme for this growing industry.
Dispensary owners and operators will now be subject to licensing fees and criminal background checks. Dispensaries will also be required to grow at least 70% of their inventory themselves, and may not operate within 1,000 feet of a school. H.B. 1284 also contains provisions licensing growing operations connected to dispensaries, establishes standards for allowing some on-site consumption of medicine for patients who cannot safely use their medicine elsewhere, and makes medical marijuana purchases for indigent patients exempt from sales tax.

Also on June 7, Gov. Ritter signed S.B. 109, which re-defines the doctor-patient relationship for medical marijuana patients. It requires doctors making medical marijuana recommendations to provide a full physical exam and medical history check before making a recommendation, and to offer follow-up care to patients to determine the effectiveness of their treatment.
These two laws provide more legitimate ground for the medical cannabis industry to expand on. In addition to these new medical marijuana laws, Gov. Ritter signed a third bill regarding marijuana policy. H.B. 1352 increases the amount of marijuana a person may possess to two ounces (previously one ounce) while only being guilty of a misdemeanor, punishable by a $100 fine. All of this is a large step towards more sensible drug policies.

H.B. 1248 has caused mixed reactions by dispensary owners, patients and advocacy groups in Colorado. 

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