The legislature must step in, define "caregiver," and create rules for the drug's medicinal sales before things get worse.
The state Board of Health's decision this week to hold off on defining what constitutes a medical marijuana caregiver could end up being a good thing.
The board canceled its Dec. 16 meeting, ostensibly to give officials time to consider legal advice on the issue. But we hope the delay also gives the state legislature a chance to step in.
As we've said before, lawmakers need to shape regulations that hew closely to the intent of Amendment 20, which voters passed in 2000.
We do not believe the escalation in the number of certified medical marijuana users — now more than 14,000 — and the proliferation of dispensaries is what voters had in mind when they supported the measure.
The measure was aimed at people who suffered from severe pain — people who were perhaps undergoing chemotherapy and needed relief from nausea.
We don't have that. What we have appears to be a system in which a whole lot of people are making claims of pain and muscle spasms, paying a nominal fee and getting a medical marijuana card.
It is not anywhere near what voters approved — and legislators need to get a grip on the situation.
The vast expansion of the medical marijuana system began this summer when the state Board of Health declined to pass regulations limiting medical marijuana caregivers to five patients each. That opened the door to the convenience-store model of distribution, and medical marijuana entrepreneurs gladly walked through it.
So it would stand to reason that the board needs to act, again, to begin closing it. But if the board was to act next month, establishing a caregiver definition that then was overridden by legislative action, it could make an already out of control situation even more confusing.
We hope these dispensary owners realize that they're expanding their businesses at their own peril. They should expect regulations that could dramatically reshape their industry.
In the meantime, towns and cities have taken matters into their own hands, enacting moratoriums and other regulations on dispensaries.
It's clear local governments are not enamored of what has happened on the medical marijuana front.
So the stage is set for the legislature to intervene and inject some order into the medical marijuana situation. First, lawmakers need to define a caregiver in a way that is true to the constitution.
If the legislature fails to act, the Board of Health must have the stomach to get back into the debate.
It would be unacceptable for both lawmakers and Health Department officials to walk away from the issue because it is unpleasant to deal with those medical marijuana proponents, who are acting as if voters approved legalization. In fact, voters shot down such a measure in 2006.
Medical marijuana was an act of compassion by Colorado voters who were offering an avenue of relief to the sickest people among us. The system that comes out of regulatory efforts — be they by lawmakers or administrative action — must honor that intent.
November 25, 2009