Cannabis Therapy Institute calls Senator Chris Romer "wolf in sheep's clothing"

After Senator Chris Romer announced that he would be withdrawing most of a proposed bill aimed at regulating the medical marijuana industry, the Cannabis Therapy Institute, a prominent pro-marijuana organization, called his decision a "guarded victory" in a press release on view at the bottom of this item.

And CTI spokeswoman Laura Kriho doesn't back off that description even after being told that Romer, in an interview with Westword this morning, warned that a total clinic ban could be in the offing thanks to the medical marijuana community's refusal to work with him in shaping common-sense legislation.

"Senator Romer is a wolf in sheep's clothing," she asserts. "He likes to say he's working for patients, but his actions speak otherwise."

Kriho stresses that "we didn't ask for his help. He took this upon himself without anyone from the medical marijuana community asking him to do it. In our view, there are a very few issues that need to be addressed to make the amendment more workable for patients" -- she cites 24/7 access to the medical marijuana registry, the high cost of registration and the medicine itself, and "the fact that patients are still going to jail" a decade after the original amendment was approved by Colorado voters. "And Senator Romer's bill didn't address any of those problems.

"His stated goal was to put 50 percent of caregivers out of business, and that doesn't help patients. So he's being disingenuous at best."

Kriho sees no "big groundswell" for a pull-back on the development of a medical marijuana industry in Colorado. Rather, "there are a handful of distraught parents who've seen cannabis leaves pop up on businesses, and they've decided it's a problem. That's the driving force behind this -- Dr. Reefer's sign on Broadway."

Of course, Pierre Werner, aka Dr. Reefer, was the site of an attempted burglary over the weekend at his Broadway location in Boulder; read his account of his fisticuffs with one of the robbers by clicking here. This story, and others like it, have generated negative publicity about medical marijuana businesses of late -- and Kriho thinks assorted police representatives have tried to take advantage of it.

"Law enforcement is continuing the strategy they've used for seventy years: lies, propaganda and fear-mongering," she maintains. "They're trying to make dispensaries seem like a threat when 98 percent of Coloradans have probably never even seen one. They're using these lies and disinformation to demonize medical cannabis users -- to try to whip up public sentiment against us."

Moreover, she believes Romer is now prepared to carry law enforcement's water to a greater degree than he's implying publicly. In an e-mail to Romer this morning, she asked, "Who's sponsoring the Suthers bill?" -- meaning a measure supported by officials like Colorado Attorney General John Suthers, which would cap the number of patients an individual caregiver could serve at five. Here's his response:

It is Tom Massey in the House and me in the Senate which means I can change it back closer to my original bill in the Senate. Tom Massey is a moderate so please have your folks thank him first for caring about this subject and ask him to get rid of the cap in the House.

Of course, Kriho doesn't want a cap, either -- but her objections to restrictions go well beyond that.

"We have a 100 percent constitutional right to do what we're doing right now," she emphasizes. "It is not illegal. It is not unconstitutional. Everything that is happening now is within the parameters of the law, and anything that's going to restrict what's happening now would require us to give up a certain amount of our constitutional rights -- and we don't see the need to give up any of our constitutional rights.

"Why they would want to waste taxpayer dollars pursuing something that's clearly unconstitutional is a clear indication of where their hearts are at. These people are prohibitionists, Senator Romer included. They won't be happy until medical cannabis is made illegal again -- and prohibition doesn't work. Senator Romer's attempts to prohibit and restrict, and law enforcement's attempts to prohibit and restrict, are unconstitutional, and that's all there is to it."

As for the suggestion that the medical marijuana community hasn't come up with constructive ideas about regulation, Kriho points out that CTI put together a proposed ordinance in October; read it here. "It's been sitting on the table for months, just waiting for someone to pick it up," she says.

Meanwhile, the Denver City Council will consider its own medical marijuana measure tonight, and members of the public will be given a limited opportunity to express themselves on the topic.

"We're encouraging people to come to the meeting before 5:30 and sign up to speak," she notes, adding, "Charlie Brown's bill rivals Romer's in its attempt to undermine the constitution."

Examples?

"The bill specifically requires you to give up your Fourth Amendment rights against unconstitutional search and seizure, allowing Denver to come in and search the premises of any medical marijuana dispensary to determine if they're in compliance or not without a warrant and without any probable cause. Now, I'm not a lawyer, but I know the Fourth Amendment says you can't do that."

She's also concerned that by imposing a 1,000 foot distance between dispensaries and schools, day-care centers and the like, the Denver law is essentially "taking a business that was previously legal and making it illegal overnight. And a lot people have sunk fifteen to thirty thousand dollars into opening these dispensaries -- their entire life savings. So if the city puts them out of business, they're going to sue. The city will be sued by multiple entities. That's why Charlie Brown's bill is really a full employment act for attorneys in Denver. They'll be litigating that for years."

Speaking about both Romer's bill and Brown's, Kriho concludes, "I think they're trying to use these restrictive monstrosities of bills as red herrings to try to distract us from helping patients."

Here's the aforementioned CTI press release:

Sen. Romer Withdraws Restrictive Medical Marijuana Bill

{Denver} -- In a blog on Huffingtonpost.com Saturday, Senator Chris Romer (D-Denver) announced his attention to drop his bill for an unworkable licensing regime that would have driven 80% of Colorado medical marijuana caregivers out of business. Romer claims that he is giving up on his onerous bill because law enforcement and the medical marijuana community were not willing to find common ground.

Read the entire blog: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/chris-romer/colorado-medical-marijuan_b_417488.html

The CTI supporters that have been writing and calling Romer and telling him to withdraw his bill have won this battle! Romer saw that he had no political support for his complex monstrosity of a bill, and wisely decided to drop his misguided attempt at "regulation" before the legislative session even started.

Romer writes that his "attempts to bring medical marijuana out of the shadows through a complex regulatory structure are now over." However, Romer says he will still have a medical marijuana bill that will deal with only a few issues. One issue he has identified is the "need for a meaningful doctor patient relationship" to get a medical marijuana recommendation. Hopefully, Romer will not try again to over-step his authority and interfere in the doctor/patient relationship by requiring a government panel to approve recommendations, as he did in his original bill.

Romer also says his bill will allow the "creation of a 24-hour per day registry for patients." CTI is hoping Romer is referring to CTI's repeated requests for 24/7 access for law enforcement to the Medical Marijuana Registry. Currently, law enforcement can only contact the Registry to verify whether a patient is a current member during regular business hours. If a patient has an encounter with law enforcement after 5pm and on weekends, law enforcement cannot contact the Registry to verify a patient's status. This means a lot of patients are going to jail nnecessarily. This is a huge problem for patients and has been for several years.

Romer did say, however, that a bill supported by law enforcement would be introduced in the House that would prohibit a caregiver from serving more than 5 patients. Romer did not name a sponsor for this bill.

"This is a guarded victory for Colorado patients," says Laura Kriho, spokesperson for the Cannabis Therapy Institute, a patient advocacy group. "Romer's bill was clearly a solution in search of a problem. We're glad that Romer is now going to focus on one of the real problems of patients that are still getting arrested and prosecuted. We would encourage him to do more for patients even still, and sponsor a Patient Bill of Rights that would help protect patients from discrimination in areas of housing, employment, probation, veteran's benefits, insurance and other areas."

"On behalf of patients and caregivers, we're happy that Sen. Romer has opted to withdraw his 39 pages of crushing regulations that would have harmed patients," says Rob Corry, Denver attorney and president of the Colorado Wellness Association, a medical cannabis industry trade group. "We are guardedly optimistic that the issues will continue to move in the right direction."

"I'm glad that Senator Romer now sees that excessive government regulations are not needed," says Timothy Tipton of the Rocky Mountain Caregivers Cooperative. "Destroying a fledgling industry before it has even had a chance to take root with excessive government regulation is a recipe for disaster. We need to have time for the dispensing business models to develop, and time for the patients to discover the number and variety of cannabis medicines available to them. Ultimately, the patients will regulate this market, just as consumers regulate any market."

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