Canyon Professional Building
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Boulder, CO 80302

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Boulder City Counsel Votes 4-2 in favor of Emergency Medical Marijuana Dispensary Regulations

The same day Judge Naves issued his injunction, the Boulder City Counsel held an emergency vote on medical marijuana dispensary regulations. Their choices ranged from a complete prohibition to no regulations at all.

Yours truly attended this meeting and, as usual, the medical marijuana issue was towards the end of the agenda so the meeting lasted forever! The meeting started at 6 p.m. but the medical marijuana issue wasn't addressed until after 9 p.m. The council didn't vote on it until after midnight! However, once the city council started the discussion it was refreshing to hear a government entity have an honest (albeit legally incorrect) intellectual discussion regarding the pros and cons of dispensaries. Overall, it was an open and frank discussion of the issues.

The Council heard from the city attorney and their support staff but it was clear that neither the council nor their staff were familiar with the laws.

First, the city attorney and council staff testified that Colorado medical marijuana law grants primary care-givers and their patients an affirmative defense if they are in possession of 6 plants, 2 oz. or more if medically necessary. However, this is a blatantly incorrect reading of the law.

Colorado medical marijuana law grants TWO defenses: first, an exception to criminal prosecution under certain conditions and, second, an affirmative defense under a different set of conditions.

Second, at least one City Council member was concerned about reports that dispensary owners kept guns on the premises. However, no authority or evidence was presented to support these statements. It is disturbing that emergency regulations are being proposed to combat unsubstantiated concerns.

It's like that episode of the Simpson's where Springfield enacts anti-bear regulations because the preacher's wife kept shouting, "But who's gonna think of the children!"

That being said, let's give credit where credit is due. Three cheers to Councilwoman Lisa Morzel for asking the obvious question of why this is an emergency when medical marijuana has been legal in Colorado for almost ten years without any issues. She felt this matter is better handled through standard regulation proceedings rather than a misguided emergency measure. Unfortunately, she wasn't a to get a second on the motion and it died right there.

Kudos, to Councilman Macon Cowles who proposed that Boulder should seize this opportunity and encourage a city supported depository of medicinal marijuana for redistribution. He proposed a "Green" Ribbon Panel composed of various representatives to help guide dispensary operations. While I am a little unclear of his exact position, it was heartwarming to see a forward thinking government official.

When it came time for public comment, every speaker supported medical marijuana dispensaries with the exception of a few. While I applaud both sides for making their opinions known, it was clear that the people have spoken and they are for medical marijuana dispensaries.

As an advocate for medical marijuana dispensaries, I did take a turn and spoke on the record against any regulations that inhibits a patients right to medicine. In my brief speech, I stated that the issue is a patient's right to medicine. I am completely against any prohibition, moratorium or ban on medical marijuana dispensaries because it prohibits a patient's right to safe access to medicine. I am against any regulation of medical marijuana dispensaries that unreasonably interferes with a patient right to safe access to medicine. I am for any regulation that promotes a patients right to safe access to medicine.

I believe that the perceived woes surrounding medical marijuana will be partially dispelled by allowing market forces to determine which dispensaries succeed or fail. Any inhibitions on the market will only serve to limit the supply of medical marijuana to patients; thereby, keeping prices high and quality of service low. I say let the dispensaries compete with each other to provide the best quality of medicine and services for the lowest price.

I was even quoted in the Daily Camera! "Craig Small, an attorney who focuses on medical-marijuana law, asked the council to allow "free-market forces" to determine which dispensaries thrive or fail.

"All dispensaries are not created equally," he said."

How exciting!

I understand that this will be an issue of compromise and that neither side of the issue is likely to get their demands. It is unlikely we are going to see a complete decriminalization of marijuana on a wide scale. Further, I believe some form of regulation of dispensaries is appropriate to provide accountability for the safety of patients. It was refreshing to see a City Council that opposed any prohibition, ban or moratorium on medical marijuana and was willing to have an open and honest (even if legally incorrect) discussion on how best to proceed through regulations supporting medically marijuana dispensaries.

In the end the City Council did enact temporary emergency regulations to restrict dispensaries. Until March 31, 2010, no medical marijuana commercial operation can operate in a residential area. Further, no more than 3 dispensaries can operate within 500 feet of each another dispensary. Finally, no dispensary can operate within 500 feet of a school or licensed daycare center. These regulations will not apply to existing dispensaries. I am still trying to get a copy of the exact regulation to review its legal limits.

Of course, there are those that are opposed to any government action less than complete legalization of marijuana. After the city counsel voted, several people stormed out threatening to sue the city. Since the meeting, I haven't heard of any lawsuits actually filed.

Now I am no journalist and a mediocre writer. To read a professional article on this meeting and see this author quoted click on the following link:

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