By Gene Davis, DENVER DAILY NEWS
The proliferation of medical marijuana dispensaries has led to an increase in marijuana use by children who are vulnerable to the drug, according to multiple law enforcement officers and mental health professionals who testified yesterday before a Senate committee.
Adams County Sergeant Jon Van Zandt said school resource officers are now dealing with 10-year-olds bringing marijuana to schools.
“Milk money has been replaced with drug money,” he said.
Adams County District Attorney Don Quick added that kids who use marijuana are more likely to drop out of school and wind up in jail, which ends up costing the state more money than any potential economic benefits that taxing marijuana might bring.
The law enforcement community’s views were in sharp contrast to the patients and medical marijuana activists who also testified before the Local Government and Energy Committee. The committee held more than six hours of public testimony before voting on House Bill 1284, which looks to regulate Colorado’s medical marijuana industry. A proposed amendment would have forbid people under the age of 21 from going in a dispensary; the committee had yet to vote on the bill or its amendments by deadline for the Denver Daily News.
Medical marijuana lawyer Brian Vicente said that prohibiting people under the age of 21 from going in a dispensary would be a form of age discrimination. HIV patient Damien LaGoy added that the amendment would have made young AIDS patients jump through more hoops to get medicine that could help their condition.
Mark Simon, who testified on behalf of Colorado’s disabled community, said that while there may appear to be abuse in Colorado’s medical marijuana system, there is no data to support that claim.
“I’m concerned that we’re making public policy based on guesses,” he said.
However, psychiatry professor T.J Crawley argued that marijuana is an addictive drug, and that increasing the availability of the drug increases the use, which then increases the adverse effects he believes marijuana has.
“I’m now sad for what’s happening in my state,” he said of the proliferation of medical marijuana dispensaries. “I think it’s a very serious risk for the future.”
HB 1284 would create a state medical marijuana licensing board run by the Department of Revenue. Under the bill, dispensaries — referred to as “centers” in the bill — would have to get a state, local, and cultivation license to sell medical marijuana to patients. The measure passed out of the House last week.
HB 1284 is the second medical marijuana reform bill to make its way through the Legislature this session. The first bill from Sen. Chris Romer, D-Denver, would require patients under the age of 21 to get a second doctor’s opinion before being able to obtain a medical marijuana card and forbid doctors from receiving money from medical marijuana dispensaries.
Denver City Council in January unanimously approved a bill that limits where dispensaries can be located, who can run them, and what safety measures dispensary owners must have in place. All of the bills seek to clarify Amendment 20, the measure approved by voters in 2000 that allows for seriously ill Coloradans to use medical marijuana.
9News: A new proposal at the State Capitol could bar any one who is under 21 from going inside a medical marijuana dispensary. It was one of the several new regulations discussed on Tuesday when hundreds of people showed up to testify at the hearing in front of the Senate Local Government and Energy Committee. The committee took testimony late into the night and had not yet voted on whether to endorse the new regulations.
KDVR: Another huge crowd packed into a hearing room at the Capitol Tuesday for another showdown over a bill aiming to regulate medical marijuana dispensaries that remains as controversial as it is confusing, especially with a slate of new amendments up for debate. “Today is the day we begin to get control of the Wild West,” said Sen. Chris Romer, D-Denver, the co-sponsor of House Bill 1284 who was the first state lawmaker to wade into the murky waters of this debate last fall.