It appears the wishes of state voters -- insisting that those who want to obtain and use marijuana for medical purposes should be able to -- are about to go up in smoke.
Colorado health department officials met this week and agreed to temporarily strike rules they made this summer that attempted to make the state's medical marijuana law workable. The state health board earlier this year tried to write definitions for some terms in the vague law, making it clear that those who grew marijuana for the purpose of getting it to patients were allowed to do just that.
A state appeals court last week halted those plans when it ruled against a woman charged with illegally cultivating marijuana. She told the court she was growing it for use by sanctioned patients. The high court said it reads the state constitution, where voters elected to place the medical marijuana law, as saying that "caregivers," who supply marijuana to medical patients must have a direct and responsible relationship with them.
If that sounds like it would be hard to make sense of and even harder to follow, it is.
The ruling and action taken this week by state health officials could undermine the hodgepodge of so-called medical marijuana dispensaries set up across the metro area.
We've called before for state and federal lawmakers to at least decriminalize marijuana and work to end its prohibition and the convoluted multi-billion dollar crime industry that U.S. marijuana laws feed. But we won't do that again here, even though these kinds of cannabis Jabberwocky are prime examples of why the country's current marijuana prohibition is so unworkable.
Instead, it's important to point out that this is what happens when state residents take up the work that lawmakers are too cowardly to do themselves.
Just like the Taxpayer's Bill of Rights and Amendment 23, the medical marijuana law has created a mess, despite the best intentions of voters. Had state lawmakers had the nerve to write the measure and either pass it or refer it to voters for approval, it would have reflected the reality of the situation.
Clearly, ill state residents who have permission from their physicians to smoke pot to treat their illnesses must get the pot from somewhere. Since Mexican criminals currently supply most of Colorado's cannabis, that's not a very good solution.
You don't have to pursue this very far to realize that someone has to grow the stuff here so permitted patients can use it.
It quickly becomes a case for regulation. Those who want to grow the marijuana should be regulated and inspected by the state. Those who wish to sell it to patients should also be regulated, at least to the extent as are liquor store owners.
And those who wish to use marijuana for medicinal purposes, too, should be limited in how much they can purchase to ensure they aren't in turn becoming suppliers to those without prescriptions.
The state needs to weigh in on where these patients can and can't use or smoke marijuana. Whether their rights to use it trump an employer's rights to fire someone for smoking it.
These are questions for thoughtful policy wonks and committees of state lawmakers, not for a preoccupied health department panel that's listening in on speaker phones during a hastily called meeting.
State lawmakers should immediately convene interim committees to sort these issues before the rush of the regular session begins in January.
Colorado voters have made their intentions clear in this matter. Now it's time for state lawmakers to make those intentions workable.
By THE VOICE OF AURORA
November 5, 2009
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It's Time To Sort Out Colorado's Convoluted Medical Marijuana Laws