Dr. Ned Calonge, who's spent the past eight years serving as Colorado's chief medical officer, will be leaving at the end of 2010 to take the top post at the Colorado Trust, a health foundation. During his tenure, Calonge has tackled health calamities as varied as anthrax scares, water-contamination crises and the hepatitis C outbreak at Rose Medical... but we have to wonder: Did medical marijuana do Calonge in?
Mark Salley, spokesman for the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, scoffs at the suggestion. "It was an opportunity for him he didn't want to pass up," says Salley, "so he decided to accept the position." Salley's probably right: The Colorado Trust is one of the largest foundations in Colorado, one that's currently working to ensure that all Coloradans have health-care access by 2018. For a former family doctor like Calonge, it should prove to be an exciting job. Still, we wouldn't be surprised to discover that Calonge is happy to bid adieu to his regular dealings with medical marijuana. Consider the CDPHE's ongoing trials and tribulations relating to the subject:
- In 2004, Colorado Board of Health passed a five-patients-per-caregiver rule for medical marijuana, only to have the regulation shot down three years later by a Denver District judge for lack of public transparency.
- In 2009, the Board of Health again considered instituting the five-patients-per-caregiver limit, but was so overwhelmed by hundreds of marijuana advocates at its July hearing on the matter that it struck the rule and instead eased marijuana regulations with a more lax definition of "caregiver."
- That fall, at an emergency hearing plagued by unintentionally hilarious technical problems, the Board of Health reversed itself and struck its new definition of caregiver -- only to have the change invalidated a few days later by the same Denver judge who had quashed their marijuana rulemaking before.
- CDPHE's vital statistics department has become so inundated by medical marijuana applicants -- a number that recently surpassed the population of Pueblo -- that even with a massively expanded staff, the office is struggling with an eight-month backlog.
- Last month, after CDPHE announced the members of its new advisory committee charged with helping create new medical marijuana rules statewide, Westword reported that Ken Weaver, the person chosen to represent medical marijuana patients, was actually a Texas ex-con who'd made up a fake life and stolen a plane, among other transgressions.
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Should all this be considered rock-solid proof that medical marijuana ultimately smoked out Calonge? Surely not. Still, maybe Calonge should leave behind a gift for his successor: a joint, along with the instructions, "Smoke this in case of anxiety."