Medical-marijuana fight brewing between Senator Chris Romer, weed advocates

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Senator Chris Romer has been the state legislator most willing to wade into the medical-marijuana morass -- and an article in yesterday's Boulder Daily Camera provides more information about a proposal he expects to offer in January on the subject. Among his ideas: All caregivers with more than two patients would have to acquire a license from the state -- and operations that didn't do more than simply providing marijuana wouldn't qualify. As such, he told the Camera, "I fully expect well over 50 percent of the dispensaries will go out of business."

Them's fighting words to the Cannabis Therapy Institute, which immediately produced a detailed rebuttal to many of Romer's notions. Among the assertions: "We need more caregiving facilities in Colorado to keep up with demand for this safe, effective medicine, not fewer."

Read the manifesto below:

Cannabis Therapy Institute Statement on Sen. Romer's Proposed Bill

Caregiver Limits and "Pain Panels" Unconstitutional; Large-Scale Production Should Be Encouraged

The first details of state Sen. Chris Romer's (D-Denver) proposed medical marijuana bill were reported by Erica Meltzer in the Boulder Daily Camera on Nov. 15.

The bill would require medical cannabis caregivers to:

- Obtain a license from the state if they have two or more patients - Develop health care plans for their patients - Offer more services than selling marijuana to patients - Pass criminal background checks

The bill would also:

- Require an additional medical review board to look at all applicants from patients who are under 25 years old. - Create a licensing system for large-scale medical cannabis production

While we have not seen Sen. Romer's bill in writing, we are disturbed by his quoted intentions to put half of all medical cannabis caregivers in Colorado out of business. We need more caregiving facilities in Colorado to keep up with demand for this safe, effective medicine, not fewer.

Here are the Cannabis Therapy Institute's comments on the bill's provisions:

No: Caregiver Limits

The Cannabis Therapy Institute believes that any limits on patients' safe access to their medicine are unconstitutional. The Constitution defines caregiver as a person "eighteen years of age or older" who has "significant responsibility for managing the well-being of a patient who has a debilitating medical condition." The Constitution puts no limits on the number of caregivers the patient can help, nor does it require them to register with the state or to develop health plans or to pass background checks. The complexity and difficulty of providing a patient with medical cannabis clearly constitutes significant responsibility in and of itself, as the state Board of Health agreed on July 20. A Court of Appeals decision that state a caregiver had to "do more" than provide medical marijuana erroneously relied on interpretations of California law that have no bearing on Colorado's constitutional amendment. Any attempt to limit this definition will certainly get overturned in court, so it is a waste of taxpayer money to try to pursue such unconstitutional requirements.

No: Pain Panels

The Cannabis Therapy Institute also opposes the creation of a medical review board that would be allowed to override the recommendation of a physician that a patient might benefit from the medical use of cannabis. The physician/patient relationship is sacrosanct, and the state has no right or authority to deny a patient's Constitutional right to use cannabis as medicine if their physician recommends it, regardless of the patient's age. The state should not come between a patient and his physician with the equivalent of a "Pain Panel" that gets to determine whether or not a qualified patient is in "true" pain. The idea that Sen. Romer wants the government to be able to override a physician's advice to his patient is ludicrous, discriminatory, and reeks of totalitarian rule.

Yes: Large-Scale Production

We do agree with Sen. Romer that the state should license large-scale cultivation operations. Large-scale production would have several benefits. First, the price of cannabis would decrease. Criminal elements would then be less interested in it, and security would become less of an issue.

Large-scale production would also make available the larger quantities necessary to manufacture medicines from cannabis oils, like the Rick Simpson oil featured in the documentary "Run from the Cure."

When members of the CTI met with Sen. Romer on Oct. 26, he said that a lot of entities in state government are looking at medical marijuana revenue as their "cash cow". Instead of trying to over-regulate and tax caregiving businesses, we suggest that the Senator look one step higher up the supply chain. Everyone knows that the real money in this industry is for the growers.

The state should enact a licensing scheme for the state to contract with farmers and growers to produce cannabis as a medicine crop on a larger scale. Our estimates show that a farmer could make at least $15 million per acre at current prices (5,000 plants per acre at 1 pound per plant at $3000/pound). Even if the influx of product on the market caused the price to drop in half, $7.5 million/acre is still quite lucrative. Money enough for everyone that wants it, and the criminals go broke because the price will plummet, making a criminal enterprise in cannabis unprofitable. The state shouldn't look at the small caregiving businesses as their "cash cow". Don't over-regulate them. Let them flourish because they create new jobs. Small businesses will be the basis for our economic recovery. Don't tax and zone them out of existence. Instead, become one of their suppliers and move one step up the supply chain to increase state revenue through licensing of large-scale production

In 1915, the USDA was encouraging farmers to grown cannabis as medicine:

In 2010, we need to make sure our farmers have a fair chance at competition in this growing Colorado industry.

Senator's Proposed Bill Endangers Patients

In our meetings with Senators Romer and Steadman, we discussed the urgent need for a Patient Bill of Rights to protect patients who are losing their jobs, families and housing due to their choice of medicine. We discussed the discrimination patients are facing in schools and their local governments. We also promoted the need for strengthening the immunity and affirmative defense protections to lessen patients' and caregivers' fears of arrest. We pointed out the need for police training on compassionate medical marijuana law enforcement. None of these patient-protection measures were mentioned by Sen. Romer.

If Senator Romer intends to destroy the access of Colorado patients to half of their caregivers, this will harm patients. We cannot support this law enforcement model to medicine.

It is crucial, at this birth of the medical cannabis "farm"aceutical industry in Colorado, that small caregiving businesses be allowed to grow and innovate and expand without government interference. Most new industries will put themselves itself into equilibrium in a year or two. Over-regulation by the government is the last thing the state should be doing right now. Let the patient market forces decide which business models work FOR PATIENTS. Let self-regulation of caregivers have a chance to decide what works best FOR PATIENTS. Let the caregiving businesses establish themselves FOR PATIENTS before the government decides the businesses need to be outlawed.

Remember, there have been no identifiable problems. The alleged increases in crime are not based on published data. Once the price goes down, the alleged Mexican drug cartels will no longer be interested anyway. There have never been any deaths in over 10,000 years of constant human use. The CU students that smoke pot don't have any trouble finding it *even without a license* now or ever!!! The only thing that has been offended is some people's sensibilities because they saw a neon cannabis leaf on Broadway.

The Culture Shock of the black market in cannabis medicine coming out of the closet so quickly in Colorado is surely jolting to a lot of people. It will be a story to tell your grandchildren, who when they grow up won't even be able to imagine that our government once prosecuted people for using harmless cannabis as medicine. You are witnessing the birth of freedom: the freedom of patients and caregivers to engage freely in their choice of medicine, who for years bought their medicine in back alleys and risked prosecution and jail just to stay alive.

It may look like "freedom run wild" for the time being, but things will settle down naturally soon. The cannabis community is unparalleled in its ethics and commitment to support patients and improve the lives of patients and their families. Our medicine-makers, our cultivators, our therapists, our attorneys, our caregivers and our advocates all speak with one voice when we speak FOR PATIENTS. No barrier can be put between the relationship of a patient and his caregiver or a patient and his doctor. We are fortunate enough in Colorado to have that principle engraved in the Constitution, and organizations like the Cannabis Therapy Institute will defend those principles without concession.

We hope that the public now sees in a very concrete fashion that there is no harm in medical cannabis use for adults. The only harm has always been caused by prohibition. We must all remain vigilant about our children and the mixed messages that all the recent positive medical cannabis news sends in the face of the DARE Program lies about "marijuana". Parents need to educate themselves, so that they may educate their children on the truth. The Cannabis Therapy Institute will continue to provide programs and materials to help educate parents.

We must remember our sick and dying sisters, cousins, aunts and fathers that need cannabis as medicine to survive. This is about them, not someone whose sensibilities have been offended by a pot leaf. Aside from licensing large-scale production, it does not look like Senator Romer's bill will actually improve anything for patient rights. We hope that he will reconsider this issue. We urge all patients, caregivers, advocates, family and friends to send Sen. Romer your comments on his proposal: sen.romer@gmail.com.

Make sure you cc us: info@cannabistherapyinstitute.com.

PS: Nothing in the previous CTI statement about encouraging large-scale cultivation licensed by the state should be construed to mean that we are *discouraging* the small-scale cultivation that is occurring right now. We want that to continue. We want the state to support small caregivers, as we mentioned in our statement, by not regulating and taxing caregivers out of existence. This means growers too. In our world, we consider growers as caregivers. Sorry if there was some confusion. Of course, CTI will *always* support local growers/caregivers/farmers and their rights under the Constitution.

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