Medical marijuana residency rules: Activist Laura Kriho asks, Where's the emergency?
The first rule-making hearing of the Department of Revenue's Medical Marijuana Licensing Authority, slated for 10 a.m. this morning, has been deemed an emergency. But why it should be categorized as one puzzles the Cannabis Therapy Institute's Laura Kriho, who notes that this terminology has previously been used in an attempt to shut out public participation.
"The Board of Health did the same thing last November," Kriho points out.
She's right. On November 3, the health board voted to strike language pertaining to marijuana caregivers following a decision in the Stacy Clendenin case; the Clendenin ruling stated that caregivers needed to do more for patients than simply provide them with MMJ. Two days later, attorneys filed a petition in Denver District Court to throw out the decision, using the argument that the "emergency" designation slapped on the meeting had prevented the public from fully participating in the process -- and the following week, Judge Larry Naves agreed, voiding the decision.
To Kriho, the alleged emergency nature of today's assembly is equally dubious, "especially considering that they're going to have at least a year of rule-making procedures. To call the first one an emergency doesn't bode well for the rest of the hearings they're going to have."
Kriho stops short of arguing that the revenue board is taking this tack to silence the public, since she's been unable to learn definitively whether or not public comment will be accepted. But based on the location of the meeting -- it's in Gaming Conference Room #110, 1881 Pierce Street in Lakewood -- she doubts the space will fit a large crowd.
"I have a feeling it's only going to hold twenty people -- so if a lot of people showed up, it would overflow the room," she says. "That was the same problem with the Board of Health last year. They scheduled these meetings that required bigger rooms. In the end, they provided them, but in the beginning, they didn't want to. So this new rule-making authority is going to have to realize there's a lot of public interest in what's going on, and they're going to have to accommodate people and let them give public comment."
The announced topic of today's meeting is a clarification of residency rules, with Senator Chris Romer calling for a liberal interpretation of the two-year requirement. He'd like this standard to apply only to those with ownership stakes in dispensary businesses, with salaried employees exempted.
For Kriho, however, this tweak doesn't address fairness issues with the rule itself. "It seems discriminatory, to say the least," she says. "No other business has a residency requirement on it. It seems like they're singling out the medical marijuana industry for some reason. And to me, it's discriminatory to single out a class of businesses to say you all have to be residents, and your employees have to be residents, too."
As such, Kriho isn't encouraging MMJ supporters to show up in force at today's meeting. "I don't want people to waste their time," she concedes. But she would like to send the Department of Revenue a message that overusing the emergency designation to shut out public comment won't be tolerated in the long run.
Page down to read the Cannabis Therapy Institute's release on the meeting.