Marijuana patients to protest introduction of new tracking system
At 10:30 a.m., state officials will unveil the Marijuana Inventory Tracking Solution, or MITS, a system intended to keep tabs pot for sale in Colorado. But while the press is invited to the event, a number of medical marijuana patients coordinated by the Cannabis Therapy Institute have invited themselves -- to protest what they believe will be regular breaches of confidentiality.
Photos and more below.
Get details about the event and the history of allegations regarding alleged info sharing.
First, some background about confidentiality complaints.
As we noted in an August post, we first wrote about efforts to establish computer access to the state's marijuana registry database for police in May 2012. Our William Breathes noted at the time that House Bill 1284, the medical marijuana regulatory measure passed in 2010, charged 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.
A damning auditor's report released earlier this year reveals that the final version of the system, described as an "automated interface between the Registry and the Colorado Crime Information Center (CCIC), a statewide computer system that delivers criminal justice information to law enforcement agencies," went live in April. But the document suggests that the data available through this interface may go beyond simply registry confirmation by providing law enforcers access to details like the number of plants and amount of cannabis a given patient is allowed to possess. This particularly concerned CTI's Laura Kriho, since the CCIC computer is part of a national law enforcement database -- and as we know, marijuana remains illegal in all quantities and for every use at the federal level.
A graphic for the MITS system.
The auditor's report documented at least five confidentiality breaches related to this system. Here they are:
• Patient information sent to the wrong recipients (5 incidents)Given this history, Kriho is even more wary about MITS, which ran afoul of critics back in October thanks to a video intended to reassure members of the cannabis industry about the system, but wound up alarming them instead.
• Patient red cards sent to the wrong recipients (5 incidents)
• Incorrect caregiver listed on a patient's red card (3 incidents)
• Patient information exposed to Public Health staff who do not perform work related to medical marijuana (1 incident)
• Names of all caregivers who were active as of December 2012 sent in a spreadsheet to the State Auditor (1 incident)
Here's the aforementioned MITS video:
According to Kriho, "the video said they had patient identification information and patient plant counts in their database -- and we were curious how they got this information, since the state constitution says in order for law enforcement to access the database, they have to have stopped or arrested a patient, and the patient has to hand them their identification card. And now they will be able to do it online, with the MITS system -- and you know every patient who goes to a dispensary hasn't been stopped or arrested."
With this in mind, Kathleen Chippi of the Patient and Caregiver Rights Litigation Project, who shares concerns about MITS with Kriho, reached out to Ron Hyman, state registrar and Office of Vital Statistics and Medical Marijuana Registry director, and Marijuana Enforcement Division spokeswoman Julie Postlethwait. And according to Kriho, Chippi received contradictory information. Below, we've reproduced a CTI release featuring links to e-mails with Hyman and Postlethwait, among many other things -- but here's an excerpt from a December 2 note from Chippi to Hyman:
You told me clearly in an e-mail dated Nov. 15 that "The Department has not shared patient information with DOR."This issue is among those at the heart of today's protest.
You asked me to contact Julie Postlethwait of the DOR, which I did. I asked her by e-mail, "If there is no data-sharing with the CDPHE, how do you verify an MMC's plant counts and cannabis amount counts?"
Julie Postlethwait confirms my suspicions that the CDPHE is sharing confidential, protected patient information with the DOR, despite your denial of this fact.
On Nov. 29, 2013, Postlethwait responded to my inquiry by saying: "The MED is able to verify registry card numbers and plant counts with CDPHE; we request the info on a specific card number and they confirm it is current and the recommended plant count."
"They're all guilty of violating patient confidentiality, and we're asking them to stop," Kriho says. She adds that, in her view, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment "is not doing a good job of keeping the registry confidential. They breached the registry with the police database, and now they've breached the registry for the convenience of the Department of Revenue -- and what's the point of being on the registry if your information isn't going to be confidential?"
The protest's theme? "Get your MITS off my meds!"
Continue to read releases from the Marijuana Enforcement Division/Department of Revenue about today's news conference and the Cannabis Therapy Institute in regard to the protest.