The Medical Marijuana Industry Group is acknowledged as a powerful organization in the MMJ community -- but until now, its reps have declined to speak with Westword. Below, executive director Michael Elliott breaks the ice by providing basic info and weighing in on HB 1261, a bill to establish THC driving limits.
MMIG was founded last June, shortly after the implosion of Coloradans for Medical Marijuana Regulation, a consortium of dispensary owners, advocates and the like, which actively lobbied on behalf of landmark legislation such as HB 1284, which regulated the MMJ industry in Colorado, and SB 109, a measure intended to clarify the relationship between doctors and medical marijuana patients. Accusations about alleged misappropriation of funds and more caused a split among the principals, with CMMR executive director Matt Brown and dispensary owner Josh Stanley winding up on opposite sides.
Attorney Brett Barney and Josh Stanley circa May 2010.
In the end, Brown pulled back from the organization, leaving Betty Aldworth in charge -- but she ultimately decided its reputation was beyond rescuing and pulled the plug on CMMR in February.
For his part, Stanley was instrumental in launching MMIG, which has posted a code of ethics on its website to reassure the public that it's being run in a responsible manner: Read it below. In addition, Elliott, who oversaw the successful campaign to defeat a ban on medical marijuana businesses in El Paso County last year, was brought aboard as executive director.
Elliott describes MMIG as "a membership organization" made up of "fifteen to twenty businesses." The group's website puts the total at 23 centers located in Garfield, Denver, Boulder, Jefferson, Weld and Larimer counties and serving approximately 31,000 patients -- but Elliott notes that not all of the members own dispensaries, grow facilities or infused-product firms. Some are associated with collateral businesses, such as accountants and attorneys who work with the MMJ industry. When asked to sum up MMIG's mission, he says, "We welcome sensible regulations and the responsibility that comes with it."
To accomplish this goal, Elliott points out, MMIG employs "statewide lobbyists who lobby on our behalf" -- and he also speaks to issues such as the THC driving limits proposed by Representative Claire Levy. In his testimony on HB 1261 last week, he emphasized that "we support the concept of the bill. We want to do everything we can to make sure our patients are safe drivers, and we share that concern with the sponsors of the bill." However, he goes on, "we want to make sure that any state DUI standard should be measurable and based on sound science." He adds that "there's a lack of research on this issue, and what we're most concerned about is edibles and the appropriate time frames for safe consumption when it comes to impairment."
Robert Chase of Colorado Coalition for Patients and Caregivers testifies against HB 1261.
Courtesy of Cannabis Therapy Institute
Does that mean MMIG opposes the current bill, as does the Cannabis Therapy Institute and other advocates who testified against it? Or supports it? Elliott says, "We're not taking a position on that as of right now," and when asked about specific aspects of the proposal, he repeats his talking points about "sound science."
In the meantime, Elliott says, MMIG staffers are continuing to "follow the bill through the process," just as they're doing with HB 1043, a proposal to "clean up" regulations made law last year, and other legislation related to medical marijuana. In other words, much of MMIG's real work is being done behind the scenes.
Page down to read the aforementioned code of ethics.
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Medical Marijuana Industry Group code of ethics:
More from our Marijuana archive: "Marijuana: Rob Corry thinks THC driving limits may violate constitution, disabilities act."