Medical marijuana: Hard-to-find patient/caregiver rules go into effect July 30

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Alhough new rules for medical marijuana patients and caregivers go into effect in just ten days -- on July 30 -- some activists are saying copies of the regulations are nearly impossible to find.

Earlier drafts of the rules are available on the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment website, but activist Kathleen Chippi points out that they differ from language approved by CDPHE that was sent to the Secretary of State in June.

Currently, final versions of the rules are only available on the Secretary of State's website (search for tracking #2011-00266 and #2011-00267). Although the final versions are similar to those earlier drafts, since CDPHE is the agency imposing the rules, Chippi feels that agency should also have the final language on its site.

CDPHE spokesman Mark Salley says the final version will be up on the agency's site on or before they go into effect on July 30. In an email today he wrote: "It is our practice and goal is to have rules up on the department website by the time the rules are effective."

The new rules for caregivers clarify that just providing marijuana to patients isn't enough to be considered "significant responsibility," as it was in past years. To meet that requirement, the department suggests a caregiver provide services like meal preparation and transportation in addition to growing marijuana for a patient. Interestingly, the final version also says that educating patients about medical marijuana can also constitute a "significant responsibility".

Caregivers are allowed to grow for five patients in the program, though they can be approved to care for more through a waiver process -- depending on variables like how far the patients are from centers and their medical needs. Caregivers can't designate someone else as their caregiver, nor can they join together to grow or start a business where patients can smoke herb.

Patients' registry regulations have also changed. Most patients can only sign over their growing rights to a center or a caregiver; only home-bound patients and patients who are underage are allowed to have both. If your application is denied, you have the right to appeal the denial within thirty days. If you do not appeal, you must wait six months before submitting another application. The new rules also ban medical marijuana possession and use on school grounds and school buses.

The most notable change is the ability for "authorized employees of state and local law enforcement agencies" to access patient records in addition to CDPHE employees. Over the past year, many activists have said this change opens up the registry to abuse by law enforcement.

The new rules also state that patients can't "undertake any tasks while under the influence of marijuana" that would be considered "negligence, or professional malpractice." To Chippi, this could mean just about anything. She points to parents who have been charged with negligence for growing medicine legally in their home.

"Having it around children at all would be negligence," she says. "Parenting under the influence. And then you've got professional malpractice if you have it in your system at work. You've now lost your right to work."

Chippi also points to language banning use of medical marijuana in a "vehicle, aircraft or motorboat" as an attack on patients, and notes that transportation is considered "use" in parts of state law. To her, this means patients can be found in violation for simply driving with their meds. "Without saying it, this language does exactly what they did in Montana," she notes. "It tries to make it so the only people who qualify are hospice patients who are bedridden."

More on marijuana: Read "4/20 in Boulder: CU student government leaders want it moved off-campus" here.

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