The focus of the medical marijuana story seems to be shifting to lawmakers trying to get a handle on this booming biz, including state senator Chris Romer and Denver councilman Charlie Brown, who's making a safety committee presentation of his latest proposal at this writing.
But Coloradans for Medical Marijuana Regulation, a new organization recently profiled in this space, wants its voice to be heard, too. The group's website is now up and running, and a page on it lays out a list of key tenants for responsible regulation. Executive director Matt Brown shorthands the ones that he sees as most important.
"Our overriding approach is to basically start with all the rules and regulations we have in place for other businesses, to see which ones apply to medical marijuana," he says. "I think that's the first step.
"From there, we need to find a balance, so we can allow the industry to come completely aboveboard," he continues. "People in the industry need to know that they can work with state and local governments, law enforcement, everybody, even as it lets growers know they're not opening themselves up to unnecessary federal prosecution."
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Romer emphasized this last point following a visit to the Cannabis Holiday Health Fair on Sunday, and while Brown doesn't endorse every aspect of the senator's approach, he says, "I think he's addressing the right issue. As long as we're illegal federally, there's a problem. We believe that if the state puts down new rules to follow, people in our industry should be protected as long as they follow the rules to a T. We don't want to have problems like we've seen in California."
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COMMR is working on draft regulations of its own that should be released in the coming days, with various interest groups having an opportunity to make suggestions along the way about "how we can address this responsibly," Brown says.
He hopes his organization will be given the same opportunity. Look below to read COMMR's broad-strokes guidelines:
COALITION RELEASES GUIDELINES FOR RESPONSIBLE REGULATION OF MEDICAL MARIJUANA BUSINESSES
Coloradans for Medical Marijuana Regulation platform promotes state standards and local control for the regulation of medical marijuana dispensary businesses
Coloradans for Medical Marijuana Regulation (www.commr.org), a coalition of medical marijuana patients, providers and growers supporting responsible regulation of medical marijuana, today released proposed guidelines for regulating medical marijuana dispensary businesses that would protect the commercial enterprises and their patients, and promote public safety.
The coalition's guidelines support medical marijuana business regulations that set uniform state standards and provide for local control to ensure public input. The guidelines also incorporate best practices within existing regulatory structures and provide state and local governments with adequate taxes and fees.
"Both citizens and lawmakers want reasonable regulations that provide safe, responsible access to and use of medical marijuana," said Matt Brown, executive director of Coloradans for Medical Marijuana Regulation. "Colorado has a real opportunity to be a model for meaningful medical marijuana regulation--protecting the public and ensuring that dispensary businesses can continue to provide needed services to their patients."
The Need for Responsible Regulation:
In 2000, Colorado voters passed Amendment 20, a constitutional amendment authorizing the use of medical marijuana by persons who are suffering from debilitating medical conditions. The amendment also creates exemptions to Colorado criminal law for medical marijuana patients and their primary care-givers. One of the areas of Amendment 20 needing further clarity is the role of medical marijuana dispensaries. Legislation to regulate the medical marijuana dispensary industry is expected to be introduced during the 2010 session of the Colorado General Assembly.
Key tenants of reasonable regulation include:
• Working within existing regulatory structures: There is no need to create a whole new regulatory structure; existing statutes and regulations for other businesses provide a starting point for medical marijuana regulations.
• Maintaining crucial medical oversight: Oversight of doctors should stay where it is today -- at the Medical Board; standards should be set for future licensed medical marijuana healthcare training; and the state should also have enforcement authority to prevent unauthorized prescriptions.
• Avoiding "one-size-fits-all" regulation: Lawmakers need to accommodate non-commercial, as well as commercial-sized, dispensaries and growers, applying different levels of regulation based on magnitude of operations.
• Generating appropriate taxes and fees: Regulations should authorize sales tax payment at both the state and local levels -- as well as impose specific, commercially reasonable fees to offset possible increased costs of government for local law enforcement, health inspectors, etc.
• Setting state standards and preserving local control: Statewide uniformity is a critical component of effective regulation, but Coloradans for Medical Marijuana Regulation understands that local control, including opportunities for public input in zoning and siting processes, is also an important element.
• Ensuring public safety: Guarantee public safety though the non-adjacency of licensed dispensaries and growers to schools and other facilities; and enabling law enforcement officials to maintain focus on illegal activities outside of marijuana with responsible regulations.
A recent poll showed that Colorado voters overwhelmingly favor establishing state-licensed marijuana dispensaries for persons who are suffering from debilitating medical conditions. By a margin of 2-to-1, 64 percent of voters said they would approve proposals that would establish state-licensed marijuana dispensaries to cultivate and provide marijuana to patients with doctors' recommendations.
"From Iraq veterans, to people with cancer and AIDS, to Crohn's disease patients, we serve a community of people that benefits greatly from medical marijuana," said Brown. "We want to ensure that the businesses that offer this legitimate and effective treatment can be contributing, tax-paying, regulated members of the business community."
About Coloradans for Medical Marijuana Regulation Coloradans for Medical Marijuana Regulation is a coalition of medical marijuana patients and providers supporting responsible regulation of medical marijuana. Formed in 2009, the coalition is actively engaged with Colorado legislators and law enforcement officers to establish criteria for the regulation of medical marijuana in order to make a positive difference in people's lives. For more information, visit www.commr.org or call (303) 335-0834.