Advertising ban part of new medical marijuana bill?

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Matt Brown sees good and bad in the upcoming medical marijuana bill.
A little over an hour ago, we posted a blog offering a sneak preview of Representative Tom Massey's bill to regulate the medical marijuana industry.

Now, more details from another insider: Matt Brown, frontman for Coloradans for Medical Marijuana Regulation and co-chair with Brian Vicente of Sensible Patient and Provider Coalition. Based on drafts he's seen in recent days, he describes the legislation as "a step backward from where we were on December 31. But it's certainly a large step forward from five-patient limits -- the shut-'em-down-run-'em-out approach."

Still, he predicts plenty of fireworks over a number of provisions in the bill -- including one that may attempt to ban all medical marijuana advertising.

Brown acknowledges that some changes may have been made since the most recent draft he saw. As of then, however, the structure called for a nonprofit rather than for-profit model that refers not to dispensaries but to "centers."

He sees that word choice as "somewhat semantic. To some degree, they're just using different language." From his point of view, "they're basically coming up with a new regulatory model for dispensaries."

In other words, the dispensary system will not be dead -- at least as he sees it. But alterations are definitely on the agenda.

"This is a bill to create and officially recognize medical marijuana caregiver businesses," he emphasizes. "I think some business models in existence today would have to be changed to a large degree to fit within the rules. But I do see it as something that's designed to create a dispensary business, or whatever term we put on it. The word 'dispensary' has a certain California recreational connotation attached to it, and there's not another word without baggage, as some industries have. That's why they're trying to frame it more medically. But whether this bill shows it today, they're working toward the end of creating a medical marijuana-based pharmacy approach appropriate to a plant-based medicine like this."

Regarding advertising and signage, he's loathe to talk about the subjects specifically: "I don't frankly know any rationale or many details beyond simply that advertising will be addressed in some way, and the details of that remain to be seen." But judging by "the bits and pieces I've been hearing about over a little more than a week," he says, "it's definitely going to be a topic of debate."

Does that translate to a ban? Here's how Brown puts it:

"I think whatever comes out about advertising, there will be some very interesting comparisons to online gambling and the restrictions placed there. And there are very important lessons to be learned about well-intentioned rules like banning casino advertising that have been very well circumvented in a lot of cases.

"Look at the Pokerstars.com casino site, which in the U.S. can openly advertise Pokerstars.net as a non-casino, learn-how-to-play poker site. But if anyone accidentally types in the dot-com part of the address, they go to Pokerstars.com, which effectively circumvents the ban."

The one thing Brown would like members of the medical marijuana community to avoid today is panic. "The message I keep trying to tell everybody is, whatever is released today doesn't become law tomorrow," he points out. "We just have to read through it and be a little more calm than we have in the past."

To that end, he feels the measure "is very amendable" -- and he thinks the groundwork his various organizations have done of late will pay dividends as the legislative process moves forward.

"We've spent three months building relationships for today -- for when something is formally introduced and we have the official, green-light starting point," he stresses. "We've talked to a number of people in the House and Senate about certain amendments, and we have a good idea where certain caucuses stand on certain issues. We have the best game plan possible, and we're already starting to draft various amendments and work with legislators -- and we're getting a good response.

"I think virtually everyone in the legislature wants this to come out right. They don't want to take a hard-line approach and lose all the benefits this industry can bring. But they want to clarify things and take care of problems, so everyone can get back to work.

"Everyone is saying, 'This is not over and done,' and they're right. Medical marijuana is an issue that will come up every year, and after a bill is adopted, hopefully we can address it in years to come with smaller tweaks and changes rather than having to roll things back and fix things that were wrong from the beginning. We want a clean starting point."

In the meantime, check out Brown's outline for proposed medical marijuana regulations he'd like to see:

Proposed MMJ Regulations

Preliminary Conditions:

1. Recognize Colorado business entities as Primary Caregiver.
2. Extend privacy protection to caregiver records
3. Caregiver clinic licensing officially meets requirements of "exception" in Section 2B of Amendment 20
4. On all rulemaking committees, add equal representation for patients/caregivers

Doctor-Patient Relationship

1. Doctors must keep records of patients receiving MMJ recommendations
2. MD or DO in good standing with current DEA license to prescribe
3. No remuneration between recommending doctor and any primary caregiver
4. Office locations similar to doctor/pharmacy; adjacent allowed but not co-owned or sharing staff.

Improve CDPHE Registry

1. Allow flexible PT staffing based on volume of applications/renewals
2. Improve physical integrity of MMJ card
3. 24 Hour law enforcement verification operator

Department of Revenue Caregiver Registry

1. Establish "retail" and "wholesale" licenses; mirroring tax classifications
2. Monthly disclosure of medicine produced and distributed to dispensaries
3. 24 hour verification system for law enforcement
4. Prohibit caregiver businesses in residential-only zone
5. Delayed effective date for rules requiring existing businesses to relocate
6. Small caregivers (<10 patients) not required to be licensed

Caregiver Licensee Conditions

1. Background checks for "good moral character"
2. Colorado permanent resident
3. Evidence of wellness services; directly or indirectly

DORA involvement

1. 2 year sunrise review of certification programs for dispensers, growers, processors, and others.

Product Testing and Certification

1. 2 year sunrise of product quality testing standards and procedures
2. Immediately require all materials used in the production to be "food safe" at minimum

Security

1. Require alarm system tied to police station as condition of caregiver license
2. Emergency contact info of manager/owner kept on file with the state


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