Medical marijuana: $9M to plug budget hole proof MMJ's getting normalized, says advocate

Yesterday, Cannabis Therapy Institute's Laura Kriho criticized Governor Bill Ritter's proposal to use $9 million in medical marijuana fees to help make up for a budget shortfall. But Coloradans for Medical Marijuana Regulation's Matt Brown, sees the move as evidence medical pot is becoming increasingly entrenched in the system. "It spoke to me about how much we've normalized the idea of medical marijuana here," he says.

Granted, Brown isn't entirely comfortable with putting the MMJ money into the general fund, since HB 1284, the main medical-marijuana-regulatory measure, "is very clear in establishing that these are locked cash funds that are not to be used indiscriminately."

Nonetheless, "other cash funds were effected, too, and my hunch is that most of those are also locked cash funds" -- and he's right. The legislature will have to approve unlocking them.

"This definitely looks like an emergency action outside of regular procedures, and maybe lawyers will have a view about it," he goes on. "But I think it's telling that medical marijuana is one of the few cash funds that are not only covering expenses but running a surplus. And the reality of medical marijuana here in Colorado meant that, in this time of crisis, it was on the list along with other well-established funds that were running a surplus, too."

In Brown's view, the acceptance of medical marijuana as a permanent part of the Colorado political and economic landscape bodes well for the potential of tweaks the industry will likely begin pushing once the legislature returns in January 2011. He doesn't mention any specifics, but he believes advocates will be able to draw upon relationships established during lobbying efforts that resulted in the signing of HB 1284 and SB 109, a measure that attempts to clarify the relationship between doctors and patients.

"Medical marijuana has proven to be a responsible industry," he says, "and we will continue building on everything that comes with that status."

Including, presumably, the appeal of medical marijuana fees to this cash-starved state.

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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