Calhoun: Wake-Up Call

Medical marijuana card arrives more than two months after cancer patient died

Elaine Betts took care of her family and friends, took care of her neighborhood. I know, because she used to live on my block, before she bought a little house a few blocks away and started taking care of that neighborhood.

When she was diagnosed with cancer last year, she continued to take care of others -- sending a reassuring note that she'd had a good, long, interesting life, and that we should not worry about her. She took care of herself, too, and in early October sent her application for a medical marijuana card to the state via registered mail.

That card finally arrived a few days ago -- more than five months after Elaine had applied, and over two months since she died.

Colorado has been swamped with an unexpected flood of requests for medical marijuana cards. By the end of last June, 10,000 patients had registered, with 400 new applications arriving each day. By this fall, when Elaine applied for her card, over a thousand applications were delivered to the health department office doing the processing on some days, and the post office was beginning to complain. In January, when the office was still working on September applications, a record 1,650 applications arrived in a single day.

The current count of official MMJ patients in this state is at 60,000, and estimates have that growing to 100,000 soon. Initially, the department was trying to turn around applications within a few weeks. But the wait for a card had stretched to ten weeks, then twelve. Now it's grown much, much longer.

Too long for Elaine, who passed away on December 31.

While she waited for her card, she was able to use copies of her paperwork to get the medicine that helped assuage her pain.

By the time that card finally arrived, she no longer needed it. But others do, and as the legislature continues to consider new rules that will regulate the medical marijuana industry, they should remember why voters approved Amendment 20 in the first place back in 2000.

For patients like Elaine, who want to take care of themselves.

Elaine was memorialized at a service on January 16, a "Celebration of a Life Well-Lived."

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Patricia Calhoun co-founded Westword in 1977; she’s been the editor ever since. She’s a regular on the weekly CPT12 roundtable Colorado Inside Out, played a real journalist in John Sayles’s Silver City, once interviewed President Bill Clinton while wearing flip-flops, and has been honored with numerous national awards for her columns and feature-writing.
Contact: Patricia Calhoun