Medical marijuana rally: Stepping up on the Capitol steps

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Nearly one-hundred medical marijuana demonstrators, smokers, passers-by and media members were at the steps of the Capitol today for a protest against Senate Bill 1284, which was being discussed inside the state house.

Before the speakers got going, DJ Freddy, a local DJ with the Hustlin' Flow Music Group crew, spun beats and flows about smoking "super silver haze" while a few people sat down to burn one on the granite steps. Behind them, school children touring the capitol peered out the glass front doors and pointed at people.

Down on Lincoln Street, protesters held up signs as several cars passing by honked their horns in approval.

Holding up a sign that read "Cannabis cures" over the top of a pot leaf, Scott Schwartz of Mile High NORML said he was there to protest the bill for several reasons. A red flag to him was the provisions that would prevent consumption on site at dispensaries -- something that he says would seriously impact users living in federally-subsidized housing, which prohibit possession or consumption. He stressed that patient education on medical marijuana is essential.

"A lot of people are not as self-educated as they need to be... and that is what we are trying to motivate people to do. If the patients themselves were educated to the point where they were demanding certain standards from dispensaries, there wouldn't be this need for regulation."

Marijuana attorney and activist Robert Corry spoke briefly before going inside to the proceedings. He said there were many things wrong with the bill and that it would take away the constitutional rights of patients and caregivers granted by Amendment 20. A major issue, he says, is language in the bill that would require caregivers to put up signage at their gardens indicating that medical marijuana is being cultivated.

"That is dangerous. It is unsafe. It is an invitation to criminals and, most chillingly and dangerously, it is an invitation to the federal DEA to come in and take you down," he said, noting recent statements by DEA Special Agent Jeff Sweetin about his belief that marijuana is not medicine and that all dispensaries are essentially operating illegally. "This bill would serve up our patients on a silver platter to be eaten by the DEA monsters. That is what the state legislature is going to do, whether they are well-meaning or not."

After Corry, several other speakers took the mic including Robert Chase, activist and founder of the Colorado Coalition for Patients and Caregivers. Chase called for patients to boycott the Denver Post for running an editorial that supported limiting caregivers to five patients, which would essentially do away with dispensaries, while at the same time running advertisements for dispensaries.

The rally wound down around 1 p.m., but Miguel Lopez, organizer for the Denver 420 Rally and Mile High NORML asked everyone to reconvene on the steps at 4:20 for a "peaceful walk" down the 16th Street Mall.

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