Medical marijuana database not as threatening as some fear, says CMMR's Betty Aldworth

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Cannabis Therapy Institute's Laura Kriho is extremely concerned about the proposal for a new medical marijuana database; she says it would be open to 24-7 law-enforcement access that violates privacy and could lead to federal prosecution of patients. But Betty Aldworth, executive director of Coloradans for Medical Marijuana Regulation, says the sky isn't falling, and actually thinks the database may have some patient benefits.

"We all know it's high time for the registry to function better," says Aldworth about the current system, spawned by 2000's Amendment 20, which legalized medical marijuana in Colorado. "And the system that was discussed yesterday should have adequate data protection. One of the things Fern Epstein, the woman who gave the presentation, talked about was that full access to the register wouldn't be shared between state agencies and law enforcement, but rather than law enforcement would be able to ping the database. So ultimately, I actually think it might be better for patients who are pulled over and having police officers question whether or not they're really patients. It'll be easier for police officers to verify."

In addition, Aldworth points to the public employee ethics rules by which enforcement officers will be bound: See them in their entirety below, complete with a section that was mistakenly excluded from the printed versions made available on Monday. The document, which establishes severe penalties for misuse of the database, "made me feel a lot more comfortable about the situation," she concedes.

Aldworth isn't happy with all of the DOR's proposals -- click to read the entire medical marijuana draft regulations -- but she sees plenty of positives upon which to build. There are "no major issues," she says, "but a number of smaller things."

She emphasizes that committee members have sought community input "since these meetings started," and this process will continue in a formal way once the final draft is made available, probably in the next week or so. At that point, members of the public will have thirty days to weigh in, and Aldworth invites everyone to do so using the CMMR website linked above as a gathering place.

"We want feedback," she says. "We're actually looking at creating dissenting opinions and alternative rules, and we welcome any involvement from people who want to take part in creating those dissenting opinions.

"The thing we're most concerned about is patient-privacy issues," she continues -- and while she's not sure "if we're going to be able to see changes in the way the rules are propagated" in the current process, "it might be something we'll have to look at changing by a different mechanism" -- meaning new legislation to adjust HB 1284, the measure intended to regulate Colorado's medical marijuana industry.

In the meantime, Aldworth keeps the focus on patients: "There are a lot of other things CMMR is concerned about, but people are the first priority."

Look below to read the aforementioned public-employee ethics draft:

More from our Marijuana archive: "Medical marijuana advisory meeting postponed after complaints it was closed to the public."

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