You'd think that supplying medical marijuana to someone who needs medical marijuana — and has already had a licensed physician attest to that — would be enough to qualify a person as a "primary caregiver."
But you'd be wrong, at least according to the Colorado Court of Appeals. Four weeks ago, in upholding a Boulder court decision, the Court of Appeals concluded that "to qualify as a 'primary caregiver' under Colorado Constitution article XVII, section 14, a person must do more to manage the well-being of a patient who has a debilitating medical condition than merely supply marijuana." Ironically, that ruling came in the case of Stacy Clendenin, who'd been busted in 2006 for growing marijuana in her Longmont home specifically for patients — a very grassroots interpretation of caregiving that likely aligns with what Colorado voters envisioned when they approved Amendment 20 and made medical marijuana legal back in 2000. Even so, Court of Appeals judges seemed to think that a caregiver has a more "significant responsibility" than merely supplying the marijuana so intrinsic to a patient's well-being. But what, exactly?
In response to the ruling, the Colorado Board of Health, which oversees the state's medical marijuana program, held a hastily called hearing on November 3 to consider its own interpretation of a caregiver's role, adopted after an epic, twelve-hour meeting in July: "Significant responsibility for managing the well-being of a patient means assisting a patient with daily activities, including but not limited to transportation, housekeeping or meal preparation or shopping or making any necessary arrangement for access to medical care or services or provision of marijuana." (Italics mine.) At this hearing, however, the board proved itself not only incapable of handling its own telecommunications system, but also of coming up with any new verbiage — so it simply repealed its previous definition. And then, a week later, Denver District Judge Larry Naves determined that the board had fumbled the required advance notice of the November 3 meeting as well, and negated even the board's non-action.
And so the board set a meeting for December 16, when it planned to again attempt to define the responsibilities of a primary caregiver, keeping in mind the Court of Appeals ruling and, with any luck, balancing that with what patients actually care about. Then, on November 18, the board decided to postpone that meeting, too, so that it will have more time to "explore its legal options." And perhaps consult its dictionary, because the definition of "significant responsibility for managing the well-being of a patient" looks pretty definitive to us. After all, the pot's the point.
But just in case getting marijuana from a caregiver isn't enough for those judges, here are ten handy ways the state can determine if you are in a significant relationship with your primary caregiver:
10) Your primary caregiver supplies you with the complete set of Cheech & Chong movies for your birthday.
9) You tell your mom you're going to meet with your primary caregiver because it sounds so much better than telling her you're going to score some pot with your dealer.
8) Your primary caregiver provides a quart of your favorite Ben & Jerry's along with your marijuana.
7) Your primary caregiver has attorney Rob Corry's number on speed dial.
6) Your primary caregiver doesn't keep you waiting two hours, unlike your primary physician.
5) Your primary caregiver's office/home comes equipped with the latest copy of High Times, not a six-month old copy of Time.
4) Your primary caregiver will watch paint dry with you.
3) Your primary caregiver always has a lighter.
2) Your primary caregiver will sit through every city council and legislative committee hearing on proposed medical marijuana regulations, to save you from any additional pain.
1) Your primary caregiver provides you with pot, which is really the point.
By Patricia Calhoun
November 24, 2009