Medical marijuana regulations: Q&A with Matt Cook, the man behind the rules
One of the main people to thank -- or curse -- for Colorado's new medical marijuana regulations is Matt Cook, senior director of enforcement at the Department of Revenue. Cook, who worked closely with legislators developing the rules, is now in charge of enforcing them and will be helming the rule-making process that will finalize the regulatory scheme.
It's hard to imagine a better person for the job.
In his long career, Cook's been through DEA school, worked as a jack-of-all-trades license enforcement officer in Colorado Springs and helped run the DOR's enforcement bureau. Although the way things are shaping up, regulating medical pot may be his toughest task yet.
Westword recently sat down with Cook for a chat. Here's what came out:
Westword (Joel Warner): Why was the oversight of dispensaries -- now known as medical marijuana centers -- removed from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) and placed under the Department of Revenue?
Matt Cook: It was a public-policy decision for it to come here. I can rationalize it, though. Obviously, we have a very good regulatory enforcement reputation with legislative bodies, local government and the citizens of Colorado. I think I would also say they didn't really take it away from the health department. I think what they did is decide, here are the issues pertaining to the doctor-patient relationships, those are best referred to the Board of Health -- and here we have an industry that engages in business practices, that needs regulations, and the Department of Revenue has the background to do it.
WW: What is unique about regulating medical marijuana?
MC: Other than the fact that it is a schedule I controlled substance, I guess something that is different is this product needs to be tracked from seed to sale. So how do we do that? We decided the way to do that is to account for virtually every gram of this product from the point it's put into the ground until its put into the hands to the customer. If they pull a plant that weighs a pound, you have to account for a pound of product. All of it will be under video surveillance, so I can manage the integrity of the process.
WW: How did you do your homework on all of this?
MC: I probably know a bit more about it than the industry gives me credit for. I have been going out, meeting with the industry. I need their expertise. I don't pretend to know it all. At the same token, they need mine. For the most part, the industry has really welcomed us with open arms. They see this as validation of a new business.
WW: Have the very short deadlines built into the new law proved problematic for the industry?
MC: The timeline was a public-policy decision. Yes, the industry is scrambling, but we are also scrambling. I have no pens, no pencils, no staff, no cars, no desks, no chairs, nothing. The Medical Marijuana Enforcement Division started on July 1. Our application forms were put out on July 6. In a sense, we created them in six days. We are doing the best we can, and so is the industry.
WW: Why only allow dispensary owners to operate a grow facility? Why not allow independent grow facilities?