Update, 1:10 p.m., February 1: The Colorado Senate has approved Senator Chris Romer's medical marijuana bill regarding the doctor-patient relationship 34-1. Read Matt Brown's take on the measure below:
Like many other prominent figures in the medical marijuana community, Matt Brown, frontman for Coloradans for Medical Marijuana Regulation and co-chair with Brian Vicente of Sensible Patient and Provider Coalition, was at the State Capitol as Senator Chris Romer's bill about the relationship between doctors and medical marijuana patients was introduced. And he was pleased by the benign nature of the scene.
"I was sitting in the back of the chamber and heard a couple of lobbyists joking that they were having a hard time telling who was against the bill and who was for it, since everybody was so well-dressed and well-spoken," Brown says.
He was equally positive about the gist of the legislation as it heads to the Senate floor, in part because it's doesn't attempt to reinvent the regulatory wheel for marijuana. In his view, "There's really very little in it."
Brown was scheduled to speak in favor of the measure but wound up getting bumped. What would he have said if given the opportunity? "The first draft didn't work," he believes, "but we worked on some issues very quickly, and in the end, the committee passed all the amendments, leaving us with a pretty good bill."
The flurry of activity necessary to reach this point was confusing, Brown concedes. "Some of the amendments on the table were so last minute that the vast majority of the people in the room didn't understand that the committee was already changing a number of structural issues we saw."
Among the best pieces of news from his perspective: The removal of a "medical review board" that would have scrutinized applications by people between the age of 18 and 21. "I think that would have been unprecedented," Brown says, "and, if nothing else, it would have served as a flashpoint for a whole lot of anger and concern." It's his understanding that a requirement for individuals in this age range to get signatures from two doctors, as opposed to just one, remains in the bill. But while "I don't think that's necessary, it's not nearly as onerous as the other plan."
Also reworked is a section that, in his view, would have given "the CDPHE [Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment] the overwhelming ability to say, 'This doctor is recommending too many people.' But it went back to what exists now as 'best practices,' which makes sense. I think, by and large, the changes made bring the bill more in line with what you see in every other branch of medicine -- and in the grand scheme of things, that's a compromise we're okay with."
The relatively smooth progress of Romer's bill thus far doesn't mean everything involving medical marijuana will be equally bump-free. Note that he was with Bob Winniki and Betty Aldford of Full Spectrum Laboratories when they got an e-mail telling them the DEA was swooping in on the facility. The timing of the raid -- Winniki was slated to testify about Romer's bill -- "very well could have been sheer coincidence," Brown says. "But on the surface, it looks like a DEA office trying to do something before somebody tells them they can't -- and it seems very much in conflict with the Justice Department memo from October [not to pursue medical marijuana prosecutions in state's that have legalized it]."
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Meanwhile, Brown is eager to see what shape Representative Tom Massey's law-enforcement-supported bill to regulate the medical marijuana industry as a whole ultimately takes.
"It's in the drafting process, and our lobbyists are hearing even less about it than before," Brown says. "We have a sense that there will be something coming in the next couple of weeks, but in terms of what it will look like, we really don't know. At this point, I think everything from a five-patient limit -- the shut-'em-down-run-'em-out approach -- to edited versions of things in Senator Romer's first bill to things no one's even talked about yet will be on the table."
He's no doubt hopeful some of those items will ultimately fall off it -- just as happened with the doctor-patient bill.