Prominent medical marijuana advocates such as Matt Brown and Brian Vicente have already weighed in on the medical marijuana bill sponsored by Representative Tom Massey. But one of the most notable figures in the medical marijuana debate -- attorney Rob Corry -- has been largely silent on the topic to date.
Why? Corry says the language of the bill kept shifting, and he wanted to wait until its form settled before commenting in detail. But now that the document's no longer a moving target -- read it by clicking here -- he's taken the time to analyze it.
His take: "I started getting a sense of déjà vu reading it, because it seemed like the same bill Chris Romer had introduced" -- one that Corry shredded practically line-by-line shortly before the state senator withdrew it.
In Corry's words, Romer "said with great fanfare on the Huffington Post that his days of trying to regulate medical marijuana were over. But even though the latest bill is a House bill, Senator Romer is the lead senate sponsor -- so I'm confused. I want to talk to Senator Romer and find out what's going on."
In the meantime, Corry confirms that he has "many of the same objections" to the Massey bill as he did to its predecessor. "It's blatantly unconstitutional, it adds layer upon layer of expensive government bureaucracy, and it's wholly unnecessary at this stage of the industry."
Some specifics? Corry says that he doesn't have a strong position on the designation of dispensaries (renamed "centers" in the bill) as nonprofits, as opposed to for-profit entities. "My view is patient-centered, and I think the price of the medicine from a patient perspective will be about the same whether its nonprofit or for-profit. From a dispensary perspective, it's a major bureaucratic nuisance to deal with all that additional paperwork. It's a distraction from the core mission of helping patients -- but I'm sure the industry could deal with it."
However, Corry doesn't see the upside of the nonprofit designation from the state's point of view.
"Colorado would be walking away from millions of dollars in state revenues," he says. "Nonprofits cannot be taxed; that's why churches don't get taxed, why the ACLU doesn't get taxed, why any charitable organization doesn't get taxed. That's obviously a benefit to the nonprofit, but the state would be losing all of that tax revenue. So it makes no sense to me. It hurts the state more than anything else."
Corry also has major difficulties with language that would essentially allow cities to prohibit dispensaries/centers.
"I don't think localities can ban something that is protected in the constitution and perfectly legal under our laws," he says. "The City of Centennial case that we won is a prime example."
With that in mind, he continues, "I think this is a bill that's going to prompt at least one lawsuit and maybe more -- and it reflects a not-in-my-backyard attitude. A lot of locals pay lip service to medical marijuana: 'We don't have a problem with it. We just don't want it in our community.'
"It would be irresponsible of the legislature to add something like that. We ought to do the opposite -- lay down a consistent, statewide framework instead of perpetuating the confusing local patchwork of differing regulations that are just a happenstance of what a city's municipal board happens to feel. This is a state constitutional right, so a statewide constitutional standard ought to apply everywhere."
Another issue: rules pertaining to signs at centers.
"It says the government can regulate the size and color of signage," Corry notes. "And I'm not sure which colors are okay and which colors aren't -- but it sets up the state as the fashion police. I'm a small government kind of guy, and Tom Massey says he's in favor of limited government on his website. But if government gets to say which colors are okay, I'm not sure how government can be more unlimited than that."
More red flags for Corry:
"There's the whole idea that we're creating a separate layer of bureaucracy through the medical marijuana licensing authority. And we've got a major problem with the one-year moratorium that the bill places on new dispensaries. This is an industry that's still in its infancy, and to freeze it in time is a disservice to the free market, to lowering costs and to allowing competition. I'm sure existing dispensaries are all for it, because it confers a monopoly on them. But I don't see any reason why they should be given a one-year pass."
At this point in the conversation, Corry begins flipping through the bill -- and almost everywhere he looks, he finds something else that bothers him.
"On page four, lines 20 to 23, it says Colorado is supposed to make a request by 2012 for the federal government to consider rescheduling marijuana from a schedule one controlled substance to a schedule two. That's just laughable that we're going to go hat in hand to the DEA, which will laugh at the state of Colorado for making a request like that. It's like Lithuania asking the former Soviet Union to leave the country. And the state of Colorado could take the lead on that and reschedule marijuana from schedule one to schedule two. They could do that tomorrow. So why don't we start in our own backyard before we ask the federal government to do something we know they won't do?
"On page five, line 21, the bill says the government must design practices to avoid 'an undue increase in the consumption of marijuana.' But who decides what's undue? Shouldn't a physician be the best person to determine that? And on page six, line eleven, there's the 'good moral character' component, which would bar anybody with a felony or misdemeanor from participating in this brand new industry. So we're legislating morality; some bureaucrat gets to decide if a person is of good moral character or not.
"And page six to page seven tries to repeal the Fifth Amendment, the right to remain silent, by saying a person may not refuse to testify before the medical marijuana licensing authority on the grounds of self-incrimination. So you can't take the Fifth if the marijuana licensing authority wants you to testify.
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"And here's an interesting one on page 13, lines seven to nine: It says a license can be denied if the character of the applicant is such that violations would likely result if a license was granted. This gives the government the ability to penalize potential future violations. It's like that Tom Cruise movie Minority Report, where they got to look into the future and penalize you for violations that haven't occurred yet. They could presumably say, 'We don't like the looks of you. You're wearing a green shirt, and we've banned that color. Sorry.'"
Nope, that's not all. Corry is also upset about five patient limits per caregiver, a ban against on-site consumption and much, much more. So what's his next step?
"I'm a recycling advocate," he says, "so what I'll probably do initially is recycle my first letter to Senator Romer" -- the aforementioned line-by-line missive -- "and send it to all the members of the legislature."
Who probably won't be surprised that he's not embracing the bill.