Boulder attorney Jeff Gard put it bluntly. The medical-marijuana industry can regulate itself. Or it can be regulated.
“If you wait for things to happen to you, they will happen to you,” Gard told about 125 patients, caregivers and dispensary operators at a Wednesday night meeting in the VFW basement. “If you take control, you have some ability to affect that, and you can present yourself as a good neighbor.”
That’s what Larry Hill had in mind. The owner of Longmont’s first medical marijuana dispensary, Hill wants to forge a coalition that can write rules for the industry and present it as a responsible business.
“It’s time that we become the shining light in the community so that people aren’t afraid of us,” Hill said. “We’re not back-street drug dealers!”
“Have you joined the chamber of commerce yet?” a woman in the crowd asked Hill, to chuckles.
“No, but I will,” Hill said, smiling.
Colorado legalized medical marijuana in 2000, but the issue came to the forefront recently as dispensaries began to pop up around the state. Longmont now has three open, and up to four more have the necessary tax licenses.
In response, many cities and towns have looked at ways to slow the growth. Longmont may soon join them; the city council on Tuesday will discuss whether to put a temporary moratorium on marijuana dispensaries, so that the city can have time to figure out what its next move should be.
“I don’t think it would be in my best interests for them to close anyone down,” Hill said. “We have a lot of patients in this area who can’t drive to Denver, or can’t drive even to Boulder to get their medication. So I do think the dispensaries are needed here.”
The crucial thing, Hill and others told the audience, was to get in front of the issue. Make it a self-regulating business with clear standards, they said, and a lot of the worries would go away.
“If you give them nothing to bitch about at the end of the day, there’s not much to control,” Gard said.
Which still left one key question open — what should the rules for dispensaries be?
Gard read out some elements of a code that the town of Frisco had worked on as one example, starting with the requirement for all dispensaries to have a business license.
“I want the government to get its money,” Gard said, smiling. “If we get accepted, it won’t be because of noble aspirations, it’ll be because the government gets its revenue.”
Other sample elements of the Frisco code included, but were not limited to:
no dispensaries within 500 feet of a day care;
no dispensaries too close to other dispensaries;
a requirement for specific security measures, including cameras;
no consumption of medical marijuana on the premises;
a good ventilation system to keep from disturbing the neighbors.
Some of the items were met with nods, others with shouts and arguments.
“There’s homes in my neighborhood that are daycares!” one man in the audience shouted. “I’d have to move my whole business!”
Laura Kriho of the Cannabis Therapy Institute said that the key was to have some consistent standards — and that people in the business were likely to come up with better ones than the government.
“I know our standards are way higher than the government’s standards,” she said.
At the next meeting (7:30 p.m. Oct. 8 at the VFW), the group will start working on what those rules will look like.
One woman in the audience, a cancer survivor, said she appreciated the effort. Describing herself as “Mrs. Suburban,” she said she had never wanted anything to do with marijuana until her doctor prescribed it.
She said taking these steps would help reassure people like her. She described one dispensary that had less concern for standards, to the point where a worker licked a joint and stuck it in a package.
“With zero immunities — no way!” she said.
She said she appreciated the professionalism many of those present were showing in trying this.
“Everything you’re doing, it sounds like you’re doing on behalf of us as patients,” she said.
By Scott Rochat
October 1, 2009
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Local marijuana providers discuss regulating selves