Tom Massey, Chris Romer tout latest medical marijuana bill (again) while activists freak out (again)
State Senator Chris Romer (D-Buzz Kill Central) and Representative Tom Massey (R-Hiding in the Capitol Somewhere) teamed up today to introduce the latest attempt to reign in Colorado's medical marijuana industry, a bill the lawmakers say would protect patients' access to marijuana while forcing providers to be licensed by the state and to operate as nonprofits.
State Senator Chris Romer was not expecting to fly solo.
Actually, they didn't exactly team up: Massey -- the Republican who sponsored the House version of the bill, which will be introduced this afternoon -- showed up for the 1:30 p.m. press conference early, took a few questions and bailed right before things got interesting. Romer -- who said he barely had a chance to read through the final version of the bill -- then showed up, only to find himself standing alone to face the firing squad. Politics at their best.
The bill's not yet online, but you can read it in its entirety by clicking here. In the meantime, here are some highlights, according to Massey and Romer:
• Patients with medical marijuana cards would have to choose one of three weed-attaining methods: They could grow it themselves, work directly with a caregiver or buy from a licensed "center."
• A caregivers -- basically a dude with a card and a stash -- would be allowed to serve up to five customers, with little to no regulation of their practices, Romer said.
• Centers, however, would no longer have to employ caregivers, but would have to be licensed by the state, and would have to organize as nonprofits under state law.
• According to Romer, 90 percent of a center's inventory would have to be grown by the center itself or obtained by one affiliated, licensed grower. The other 10 percent could be bought from another licensed center. Independent growers could no longer sell to multiple centers.
• The bill would limit the amount of product per patient that a center could possess at any time to six plants or two ounces, and would limit the total amount of product owned by a center, a de facto way of limiting the number of patients a center could serve. (Romer wasn't sure on those numbers, but said he thought centers would be able to serve as many as 2,000-3,000 patients.)
• According to Massey, the bill would ban all on-site consumption at centers.
• The bill would prohibit doctors from having a financial relationship with a center, and would attempt to raise the standard used by doctors to prescribe marijuana. Doctors could still operate on site but could not be employed or compensated by the center.
• Cities would be free to ban centers locally.
• Should the bill pass as introduced, dispensaries would have eighteen months to transition into licensed "centers," and no new dispensaries could open under today's rules (whatever those are).
• And, most importantly to my pending raise request, the bill would place some limitations on how centers could advertise those services, both in media and on signage. He said something about making those ads "appropriate" and limiting the use of marijuana leafs, but I was already surfing Monster.com by then.
So! In other words, everyone's pissed! After Romer stopped fielding questions, the press conference devolved into a shouting match between Romer and activists, while Sensible Colorado's Brian Vicente sensibly relayed his concerns to the media. Chief among them: The banning of on-site consumption -- which he says could intimidate patients not familiar with using a vaporizing apparatus (read: people who can't work bongs) and patients who enjoy the sense of community.
Vicente also questioned the legality of cities being allowed to ban centers altogether. "If someone is sick in Aurora, they shouldn't have to get on a bus to get the medicine they need," he said. (Sensible Colorado is sponsoring a ballot measure that would fight this and other issues, as this blog reported earlier today.)
The bill will have its first public hearing Monday afternoon before the House judiciary committee, which will accept public comment, Massey said. There will not be beer or snacks.