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Brian Vicente: Severe medical marijuana restrictions "will not be met kindly by the public"

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Brian Vicente, executive director of Sensible Colorado and co-chair of a new organization called Sensible Patient and Provider Coalition, is understandably pleased by the results of a new ABC/Washington Post poll showing that 81 percent of respondents supported legalizing marijuana for medical use.

"People are really leading on this issue," Vicente says. "I think it'd be tough to find any issue that 81 percent of the public agrees on."

No wonder he believes "any severe restrictions on the medical marijuana program in Colorado will not be met kindly by the public."

Perhaps, but there's been plenty of push-back of late, including sensationalized coverage of medical marijuana crimes (or near crimes), as well as impending proposals from the likes of Representative Tom Massey that could essentially put the kibosh on the dispensary system.

According to Vicente, such negatives are more than offset by the popularity of medical marijuana in general. "I think we can read into the poll that 80 percent of Coloradans support sick people having access to medical marijuana," he maintains. "And any attempt to restrict that access will be met with public outrage.

"Having said that, I've been talking to legislators pretty much every day, and I think there's a building majority of legislators at the statehouse who feel we need to regulate, not obliterate, this industry. I think a lot of the leadership feels that way about what's been termed the fastest growing industry in Colorado. They don't want to turn away those thousands of jobs or those tax revenues."

Besides, he continues, "medical marijuana is in the constitution. And they can't weaken that right just because certain law-enforcement influences don't like it."

At the same time, Vicente and Coloradans for Medical Marijuana Regulation's Matt Brown, his colleague in Sensible Patient and Provider Coalition, are open to the concept of rules and regs.

"Regulation is inevitable and we welcome it," Vicente says. "And I actually think the vast majority of medical marijuana patients and activists want the industry to be regulated, too. There's some contention about what those regulations should be, but I think our side largely agrees on many of the regulations that we'd like to see in place, and we feel it will legitimize our industry. There's a growing consensus there."

In that respect, he believes the ABC/Washington Post poll will help.

"We've been sharing this poll with legislators, just to let them know there's massive and overwhelming support for medical marijuana in Colorado and beyond," he says. "New Jersey recently became the fourteenth medical marijuana state, so there's a lot of momentum in this area. And we don't want Colorado to take a step backwards and push the industry back into the shadows."

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