Medical marijuana advocate's call not to disturb legislative process for bill stirs controversy
The Cannabis Therapy Institute sent out an "action alert" to its members regarding today's planned second reading of HB 1260, a bill to set THC driving limits. But after a similar alert last week regarding HB 1250, which originally sought to ban all MMJ edibles, infused-products manufacturer Greg Goldfogel e-mailed a note of his own, asking advocates not to disrupt the legislative process. Which didn't go over too well with some of them.
Here's a key passage of the CTI alert related to the edibles legislation:
Many of the Reps. read their e-mail during these hearings. If you hear something you disagree with when you listen live online, you can send the committee members an e-mail, and there is a good chance they will see it. It is very important is people to e-mail the Reps. with links and research refuting any law enforcement misinformation. Since this hearing is will not allow public comment, real-time e-mails will be even more important.
And here's the response from Goldfogel, who owns Sweet n Savory, a medical marijuana edibles company, and is a member of both the Department of Revenue's MMJ advisory committee and the Medical Marijuana Industry Group, a powerful trade association that lobbies the legislature on related issues.
Dear industry friends,
I have information for GOOD AND RELIABLE sources that the amendment being promulgated and voted on tomorrow is NOT going to ban edibles, but merely (as proposed) give the DOR the ability to increase packaging standards to keep edibles and other infused products out of the hands of children. In other words, the bill as amended is BENIGN.
I STRONGLY urge our community to not do anything to disturb or distract the process.
Several advocates who've spoken to Westword were offended by this request, feeling that Goldfogel was asking them to give up their free speech rights in order to advance the goals of MMIG. But Goldfogel, whose background includes the acclaimed eatery Ristorante Amore and Alto Denver, a jazz club and restaurant, says that was not his intention.
"There are two ways to effect change, and both can be equally effective," he maintains. "One is banging at the gates from the outside, screaming at people. And the other is sitting at the table as a respected member of the community, negotiating. And I personally believe the approach of sitting down at the table is going to achieve better results. Not to deny the confrontational approach. It has its place. But I don't think this was the time for that."
Indeed, HB 1250, sponsored by Representative Cindy Acree, had mutated from a full-scale edibles ban to a measure intended to ensure that infused-products packaging was designed and labeled in ways that would keep MMJ away from kids -- something upon which he feels all parties can agree.
"I believe that most members of our industry are in favor of making sure these products only go to registered patients with a doctor's recommendation," he says. "We certainly don't want it to fall into the hands of children. So I'm certainly in favor of stricter requirements about that, and it's pretty hard to argue against it."
Of course, the Department of Revenue already has the power to create regulations governing labeling and packaging, prompting some observers to brand the bill superfluous. But Goldfogel still sees it as a positve.
"I think it's one step more toward moving this industry into legitimacy," he allows. "[The Department of Revenue's] Matt Cook uses the term 'baby steps' -- not trying to go too far. And a lot of us want to have everything all at once. But this is another baby step, and if it makes the legislature and the voters of Colorado happy to know this is another level of control for the Department of Revenue, so be it.
"Within the pro-medical marijuana community, there are clearly two camps: the people who believe regulation is a good thing and those who believe any regulation is harming their ability to grow their own. And I'm clearly in the pro-regulation camp -- and I think most of the industry is. I spoke before the judiciary committee a few weeks ago and took a straw poll of everybody there. I asked how many in the room would be in favor of keeping this out of the hands of children and away from people without a doctor's recommendation. And of the 350 or so people who were there, if there were more than five people who didn't raise their hand, I'd be shocked. As a community, people understand this is medicine, and in the same way you want to keep any prescription medicine out of the hands of children, it's my job as an infused-products manufacturer to discourage children from touching it."
Goldfogel describes himself as "a huge advocate for First Amendment rights," so the idea that he was trying to muzzle free speech makes him chuckle. "I simply suggested, 'Let's let calmer minds prevail, and I think you'll be happy with the outcome.' There was no reason to send texts and e-mails to people during the meeting, because we'd already won. And if you've already won the battle, why would you want to show up at the front lines and scream at the soldiers?
"This is just one man's opinion," he acknowledges, "but I feel we're at a stage where we need to all be moving together toward the same goal if we're going to be able to better serve our patients."
Page down to read the Cannabis Therapy Institute's action alert regarding HB 1261, the THC driving-limits bill.
Cannabis Therapy Institute release:
HB1261: Full House to Vote on THC/DUI Bill (Tues.)
HB1261, the Colorado THC/DUI bill, will be debated and voted on by the full Colorado House of Representatives for the first time on Tuesday morning, March 22. This is known as the bill's Second Reading, and more amendments are possible.
HB1261 would declare that anyone found driving with 5 nanogram/milliliters or more of THC in their bloodstream would be guilty of "DUI per se" and subject to a misdemeanor offense and the possible revocation of their driver's license.
The bill passed out of the House Appropriations Committee on Friday (3/18). The committee allocated $22,000 to the Department of Revenue to pay programmers to update the Driver License System database to collect the new THC/DUI data.
Read the bill and committee reports here:
LISTEN LIVE ONLINE
You listen online to the full House of Representatives debate:
It is VITALLY IMPORTANT that you write RESPECTFUL e-mails and make phone calls telling your Representative that the DUI/THC bill is unfounded and unnecessary and may cause medical marijuana patients to become a targets for DUI arrests.
HB1261 is unfair to medical marijuana patients and will force patients back on prescription medications that do not have nanogram levels and are not routinely tested for by the police. HB1261 will require a "forced blood draw", forcing anyone suspected of driving under the influence of THC to submit to a blood draw forced by the state. Currently, alcohol levels can be tested through urine, breath or blood. But under the THC/DUI bill, the nanogram count can only come from a forced blood draw. The sponsor of HB1261, Rep. Claire Levy (D-Boulder) admits that she cannot point to one single accident caused solely by marijuana and that the research on setting a nanogram limit as evidence of impairment is "all over the place." Contrary to other reports, the "per se" part of the bill has *not* been removed. This means that a person charged with THC/DUI can still introduce evidence that their blood level was below the "per se" number, but cannot introduce evidence that, in spite of the number, they were not impaired. Ask your Representative to remove the "per se" standard from the bill and allow patients to present behavioral evidence that they were not impaired. Ask your Representative to include an exemption for medical marijuana patients.
Contact Your State Representatives
The Colorado Coalition for Patients and Caregivers has compiled the 2011 list of Colorado Senators and Representatives as both a Printable PDF and Excel Spreadsheet. These spreadsheets also includes the votes the Reps. had last year on the two anti-patient bills of the 2010 session (HB1284 and SB109) Click here to download these files:
E-mail Colorado State Representatives
If you want to email your letter to all the Colorado State House Representatives, here is a list that you can cut and paste into the BCC (Blind Carbon Copy) field of your e-mail program:
More from our Marijuana archive: "Marijuana: Rob Corry thinks THC driving limits may violate constitution, disabilities act."