Colorado lawmakers are finally sending a measure regulating the state’s medical marijuana industry to the desk of Gov. Bill Ritter, and Ritter has indicated he’s inclined to sign it into law.
The State House voted 46-19 on Tuesday afternoon to approve House Bill 1284, report Jeffrey Wolf and Adam Schrager at 9 News. The bill mandates that dispensaries are licensed and monitored throughout the state, but in a very controversial provision, also gives local communities the ability to completely ban them.
Individual caregivers would still be allowed to provide marijuana to up to five people in localities where a ban is in place.
Medical marijuana advocates argue that it would restrict chronically ill Coloradans from safely accessing cannabis, which is a Constitutionally protected drug under Colorado law since voters legalized it in 2000.
Predictably, law enforcement officers also criticized the bill as “legitimizing dispensaries” which they claim wasn’t the intent of Colorado voters last decade. It’s another case of the old “Yeah, it’s fine to have marijuana as long as you don’t actually get it anywhere” school of thought.
The measure regulates where dispensaries can be located. The shops are required to be at least 1,000 feet or more from schools, much like liquor stores.
Supporters of the legislation say it will help bring order to an industry that has grown exponentially in Colorado over the past two years.
Lawyers and medical marijuana advocates opposed to the bill say they will sue the state if the bill becomes law, partly because of the provision allowing local bans. They also object to excluding non-Colorado residents from opening dispensaries, and large dispensary application fees, which they say are excessive.
As a former prosecutor, Gov. Ritter was one of the main proponents of using a “law enforcement model” for Colorado’s medical marijuana regulations, according to medical marijuana advocacy group Cannabis Therapy Institute.
“He helped Senator Romer craft a bill most favorable to police and prosecutors with no regard for patients, CTI said in a press release.
CTI urges Coloradans to email Gov. Ritter at [email protected] and urge him to veto HB 1284 and SB 109, “because the bills will harm patients by driving up both the price of medicine and participation in the program.”