Marijuana: HB 1358 would fund police computer access to patient database

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HB 1358, a bill that would shift $7.7 million in medical marijuana registry fund money to the struggling Medical Marijuana Enforcement Division, passed the House Appropriations committee today, paving the way for a floor vote. The Representative Beth McCann-sponsored measure upsets activists, who say the money should be used to benefit patients or be refunded. But most haven't noticed language tucked into the proposal that earmarks $93,000 for a computer system that will allow law enforcement to access the MMJ patient registry.

House Bill 1284, the medical marijuana regulatory measure passed in 2010, charges the state with developing a tracking system that funnels information from the Colorado Bureau of Investigations, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and the Medical Marijuana Enforcement Division into a database accessible by local law enforcement needing to verify legal status. The program, dubbed the Medical Marijuana Technology Information project, hasn't been finalized. Yet.

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Beth McCann.
According to McCann, CBI is scheduled to receive $93,000 from the Department of Public Safety as part of the 2013 budget. This money will help CBI complete the project in conjunction with the Colorado Crime Information Center, the MMED and the CDPHE. If the bill passes, the state treasurer will take about $93,000 from the CDPHE and give it to the Department of Public Safety to be used "for personal services and operating expenses related to the coordination of the medical marijuana data in the Colorado Crime Information Center," the bill states.

In short: The cash will kick-start the program and fund the continued planning and implementation of the system.

And just what would Medical Marijuana Technology Information project look like?

According to CBI director Ron Sloan, the program envisions a digital connection between the CDPHE patient registry and law enforcement. Basically, it will give cops the ability to verify a patient's red card status through their computer query system. Sloan said only information about whether or not a person's registry is valid will come up.

Though not set in stone, the current plan is for the directory to be searchable not only by registry number but also by the patient's name. Sloan gives an example of officials' reasoning:

"When law enforcement comes into contact with someone, it is typically on a traffic stop where that person is providing their identifying information like name and date of birth," he says. "That person may or may not have their registration card with them. They may not have a patient registration card that is legitimate. The only way for that to be confirmed is for law enforcement to be able to send a query into the system of whether that person is or is not a patient."

Sloan says he wasn't sure if officers would have to make a separate search for MMJ registry information or if it would come up automatically in the form of a flag -- much aas it happens with the sex offender registry. Currently, if a sex offender is pulled over, a flag pops up in the general query results. The officer can then dig deeper into another database to look up more on the offender's history.

Page down to continue reading about the proposed MMJ database.


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