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  1. Mick Mouse
    Changes to medical marijuana law in Colorado cleared their first hurdle on Thursday.

    A House Committee signed off on changes to the nation's most expansive set of regulations for how pot is grown and sold. Most of those rules haven't taken effect yet, but lawmakers are making changes to some parts that elicited complaints from patients, doctors, and law enforcement.

    Many patients, though, complain that revisions don't change two provisions most unpopular with marijuana advocates-a requirement that commercial pot transactions be recorded, with the tapes available to law enforcement, and a requirement that dispensaries grow 70 percent of the pot that they sell.

    Some angrily testified that all regulations violate the spirit of a constitutional amendment Colorado adopted in 2000 to legalize medical pot.

    "This entire exercise has been a frightening boondoggle" said Robert Chase, who founded the Colorado Coalition of Caregivers & Patients.

    House Judiciary members of both parties backed the bill, though, and it passed 12-0 after hours of debate. Its sponsor, Republican Rep. Tom Massey, insisted that bill doesn't make significant changes to the sweeping rules approved last year after months of debate.

    There was plenty to argue about in this year's version, though. Among the bill's changes:

    -A moratorium on state licenses to sell pot commercially, due to expire this summer, would be extended until mid-2012.

    -Marijuana patients who wish to grow their own pot at home would have to register where their plants are located.

    -Makers of products infused with cannabis, such as pot brownies, would be limited to 500 plants.

    -Dispensaries would be limited in the number of the cloned marijuana plants they could sell.

    -Dispensaries would have to behave more like medical clinics in regard to patient's privacy-no tossing of patient records in public garbage cans.

    -Doctors whose medical licenses are restricted or otherwise limited by the Colorado Medical Board could still write marijuana recommendations with the board's permission.

    The revisions have divided the Colorado industry. Some dispensary owners and marijuana industry advocates say that the changes are needed and will promote acceptance of the industry.

    "We welcome reasonably regulations and the responsibility that come with them," said Norton Arbeleaz, head of the Medical marijuana Industry Group and a member of the state panel that refined last year's law into regulations expected to take effect next month.

    Others vowed lawsuits and more debate. Robert Corry, another member of the rule-making panel and a lawyer who represents pot sellers, predicted more fighting over the grow-your-own 70 percent requirement. Regulators say that the requirement is needed to ensure that black market drugs aren't being sold in dispensaries. But dispensary owners frequently compare the rule to requiring grocery stores to grow the food they sell.

    "The state is going to have to be bludgeoned in the head that this is unenforceable" Corry said.

    House Bill 1043 now moves to another House committee before it goes to the full body for a vote.

    written by: Jeffrey Wolf



  1. Mick Mouse
    Bill revising medical pot regulations in Colorado advances

    Bill revising medical-pot regulations in Colorado advances

    Colorado's medical marijuana wars begin anew at the state capital on Thursday with the first public hearing on a bill that makes changes to the state's dispensary regulations.

    When the hearing opened, the measure-House Bill 1043- would have made a number of industry-friendly changes to the rules, including making it easier for felons to own dispensaries and exempting long-standing dispensaries from buffer-zone rules around schools.

    But Rep. Tom Massey, a Poncha Springs Republican who is sponsoring the legislation, quickly announced that he had rewritten the bill. Gone were the loosened restrictions on felons. gone was the grandfathering of dispensaries in buffer zones.

    What was left was a bill that was less industry-friendly but one that owners of large dispensaries still joined with law enforcement officials in cautiously supporting.

    "A good compromise," said Josh Stanley, owner of the Budding Health chain of dispensaries, "is when everybody is not exactly happy."

    But the bill outraged marijuana activists and some small-dispensary owners, who said that the changes would force some dispensaries to close, hurt patient access and boost the black market trade in marijuana.

    A number of activists used the hearing as an opportunity to express concerns about issues not addressed in the bill.

    They criticized a different bill filed this week at the capital that would ban the sale of marijuana-enhanced food and drinks, a major industry niche in Colorado. They blasted proposed Department of Revenue regulations that would require all medical marijuana transactions at dispensaries to be videotaped.

    "We have a situation where our medical marijuana program is run by the state tax collector, and you've really taken all the medicine out of it" said Laura Kriho of the Cannabis Therapy Institute.

    After nearly six hours of testimony and debate, the House Judiciary Committee voted unanimously Thursday night to approve the revised bill.

    "It's a good piece of legislation that furthers a business model that we have been very unique in Colorado in establishing." Massey said.

    The bill would make a number of changes to the Colorado medical marijuana law. The measure requires small-scale caregivers to register the location of their marijuana growing spaces with the state. It caps at 500 the number of plants that makers of marijuana-enhanced products, such as brownies or balms, can grow. it increases penalties for people who make public medical marijuana patient records. And it extends for an extra year a statewide moratorium on new dispensaries that was set to expire this summer.

    Proponents said the extension was necessary to give the new regulations time to settle in before the industry gets ant bigger. But medical marijuana attorney Sean McAllister said the change is detrimental to investment in the industry.

    "Businesses had expectations they would be able to open this summer," McAllister said.

    The bill still loosens some regulations. It makes the two-year residency requirement apply only to the owners of dispensaries, not to their employees. It allows medical marijuana businesses to provide cannabis to labs for scientific testing. And it creates a process by which doctors with caveats on their licenses can appeal to the state Medical Board to be allowed to recommend marijuana.

    The bill must next go to the House Appropriations Committee for a vote approving its price tag before it can go to the full House.

    Meanwhile, House Bill 1250, which would ban marijuana-enhanced food and drinks, is scheduled for its first public hearing on march 1.

    By John Ingold
    The Denver Post

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