Cannabis Therapy Institute offers framework for dispensary regulations

Last night, city councils at localities throughout the state, including Longmont, Lafayette, Louisville and Thornton, discussed the issue of medical-marijuana dispensaries at city council meetings. In Durango, for instance, officials approved preliminary tweaks in regulations, setting hours of operation and forbidding such businesses to locate in residential neighborhoods.

Against this backdrop, the Cannabis Therapy Institute, one of the state's most vigorous medical-marijuana advocacy groups, has created a report encouraging the development of this already booming business. The introduction promotes the organization's line of thinking via both economic and healthcare-related arguments. Here's a sample:

Cannabis medicine is an entirely new industry in the state and represents a unique opportunity for local officials to improve their economies by welcoming these businesses to their communities and encouraging their efforts to provide safe, reasonable access to legal patients. Just as Colorado is at the forefront of developing other "green" technologies, we would like to see the state embrace this new green economy for the benefit of all its citizens.

When designing new policies and regulations, it is critical to remember that this is a health care issue, affecting the lives of thousands of sick people who have all been qualified by their physicians and the State of Colorado to use cannabis as medicine. A proactive public health model can effectively address problems before they arise, and communities can design methods for safe, legal access to medical cannabis while keeping the patients' needs foremost.

Even more interesting is the concluding section of the document: a specific suggestion about how the laws governing dispensaries can be codified. According to the report's authors note, "Article XVIII § 14 of the Colorado Constitution (Colorado's Medical Marijuana Amendment) needs to be clarified to answer community concerns and to help ensure that medical cannabis businesses will be protected from federal law enforcement. The below draft ordinance is intended to provide a framework around which communities can regulate medical cannabis businesses while at the same time fostering the economic development of the medical cannabis industry and protecting patients' safe access to medicine."

Clearly, there's a vaccum in the way medical-marijuana rules are being established and enforced from community to community -- and the Cannabis Therapy Institute would like to fill it.

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts