Across Street From 420 Rally, House Toughens Medical Pot Rules


Photo: Joe Amon/The Denver Post
Thousands gathered in the park across from the Colorado State Capitol in Denver to support the legalization of marijuana, April 20, 2010.

​Colorado state lawmakers at the Capitol on Tuesday toughened regulations for the booming medical marijuana industry as clouds of smoke wafted from a pro-pot really across the street.

The House ultimately passed a bill to create rules for marijuana dispensaries, focusing largely on licensing requirements, tax policy and signage rules, reports John Ingold at The Denver Post.

Photo: Joe Amon/The Denver Post
Denver resident Sheila Delaney, 52, right, cheers during Tuesday’s 420 rally at the Civic Center. She said marijuana has helped her son with epilepsy over the past 14 years.

​Almost all the changes made by the House to the bill were rolling back victories that dispensary owners had won earlier in the legislative process.
Legislators put back in language to House Bill 1284 that would let local governments or voters ban medical marijuana dispensaries in their communities. They took away the ability for patients to consume cannabis edibles at dispensaries, and toughened criminal background check requirements, barring for life anyone ever convicted of a drug-related felony from operating a dispensary.
Stores will be required to cultivate most of their own marijuana, and will not be allowed to open near schools or drug treatment centers.
Even in its newly toughened form, the bill would still offer the first legal recognition to storefront medical marijuana dispensaries that sprang up around Colorado last year, reports Joe Hanel at the The Durango Herald.
While Colorado voters made legal medical marijuana part of the state constitution in 2000, the law so far says nothing about dispensaries.
“The voters did not approve a dispensary model,” said Rep. Mark Waller (R-Colorado Springs). “We’re in the process here of building a dispensary model.”
A lawmaker argued against one proposal in the lengthy debate by calling it “unprecedented.” Rep. Jack Pommer (D-Boulder) replied, “We’re essentially setting up street-corner marijuana shops. If the intent of this bill is not to break new ground, we’ve already gone beyond that.”
On Tuesday, legislators wrote in a five-year expiration date for the bill, unless a future Legislature and the state Department of Regulatory Agencies renew or change it.
The bill is still one vote short in the House before being passed to the Senate for more debate.
As the lawmakers whittled away at the rights of medical marijuana patients and providers, thousands of pro-marijuana activists gathered across the street. But the revelers found few friends inside the House chamber, as most amendments to toughen the bill passed by wide margins.
House Majority Leader Paul Weissman (D-Louisville) said much of the added regulation isn’t necessary, and that legislators are succumbing to “reefer madness.”
Weissman, who runs the House calendar, said he scheduled the marijuana debate for 4-20, but not intentionally. “It’s a wacky coincidence,” Weissman said. “It is pretty funny, though.
HB 1284 passed with a voice vote, and a final, recorded vote could take place as early as Wednesday.
Legalization activists acknowledged their cause has been inextricably entwined with the medical marijuana boom, which has created new activist networks and new revenue streams to fund them, Ingold reports.
“It has helped the legalization of marijuana 10,000 percent,” said California medical marijuana patient and activist Richard Eastman, who spoke at the rally.
“It’s certainly familiarized the public to [marijuana], so it’s not quite the villain they thought it was,” said Dave Penny, a Colorado medical cannabis patient at the rally.
Some activists warned against the pot legalization movement relying too heavily on medical cannabis.
“Medical marijuana doesn’t get us there,” said Allen St. Pierre, executive director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML). “We have to change these laws. We have to legalize marijuana.”