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Medical marijuana: Last-minute MMJ meeting time change causes public comments fight

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Why is there an adversarial relationship between some medical marijuana backers and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment? An incident this morning demonstrates why. Because the start time for an MMJ advisory committee meeting underwent a last-minute switch from 9 a.m. to 8:30 a.m., the public comments period was over before several advocates arrived, prompting some bitter exchanges.

At this writing, the online meeting schedule and agenda both list the meeting as getting underway at 8:30 a.m. But according to advocates Timothy Tipton and Kathleen Chippi, the time read "9 a.m." as recently as Monday evening. Tipton notes that a state employee subsequently took responsibility for the confusion, telling him the time had been changed about 48 hours beforehand.

As a result, only two advocates got a chance to speak in the designated public-comments time period, at the CDPHE headquarters building's Sabin Conference Room. But when four others, including Tipton, Chippi and Robert Chase, raised objections, the committee acquiesced, reopening public comments and giving them three minutes apiece to speak. A fifth advocate who showed up sometime later was out of luck, Tipton says.

This situation ratcheted up tension, which came to a boil when Chase interrupted subsequent testimony and was escorted from the meeting by a police officer.

By the way, the main item under discussion today was primary caregiver regulations, and the meeting isn't expected to end until 11:30 a.m. Time will tell if the recommendations made will upset advocates as much as the public-comments snafu did.

More from our Marijuana archive: "Medical marijuana: Health dept. reinstates 1,300 rejected MMJ patients -- for now."

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