By Gene Davis, DENVER DAILY NEWS
As the heated battle over medical marijuana reform enters its fourth month at the state Legislature, ideological disagreements between competing pro-marijuana groups are starting to blow into the open.
Following a Senate committee’s approval of a bill Tuesday night that would in part allow local jurisdictions to ban medical marijuana dispensaries from operating within city limits, the Cannabis Therapy Institute (CTI) issued a press release slamming Coloradans for Medical Marijuana Regulation (CMMR) as being “a lobbying group hired by a handful of well-funded dispensaries who have been ‘working with’ (bill sponsor) Senator Romer on gaining concessions friendly to big business.” The press release added that medical marijuana attorney, CMMR representative and Sensible Colorado Director Brian Vicente is “overall satisfied with the bill that would eliminate 80 percent of patient’s caregivers.”
However, Vicente said he opposes the bill in its current form. He spent about 40 minutes clarifying his group’s position with Laura Kriho of CTI and is trying to get on the same page as the activist group, he said.
“I think at this point, people on both sides of the debate are really frustrated and tired of dealing with this issue,” he said. “I think tempers are getting short.”
For her part, Kriho said that Vicente has spoken in favor of House Bill 1284, though he opposed additional amendments that were tacked onto the bill at the last minute. She believes that anyone in favor of HB 1284 is in favor of harming the state’s sick medical marijuana patients; Sen. Chris Romer, D-Denver, has said he intends for the measure to put 80 percent of dispensaries out of business.
Meanwhile, Romer said he has noticed tension between the activists who want marijuana to be legalized and those who want it for medicinal purposes.
“It’s kind of like back in the old gold rush days where they’re so busy protecting their claim, they don’t even have time to run to the store and get picks and shovels,” he said.
Vicente, Kriho and Mason Tvert of Safer Alternative Alternatives for Enjoyable Recreation are all united, however, in opposing HB 1284 in its current form. HB 1284 would create a state medical marijuana licensing board run by the Department of Revenue. Under the measure, dispensaries — referred to as “centers” in the bill — would have to get a state, local and cultivation license to sell medical marijuana to patients.
Specifically, Vicente argued that allowing municipalities to ban dispensaries would force sick patients to travel great distances to get their constitutionally protected medicine. He also said an amendment proposed by Romer that would ban people under the age of 21 from being able to enter a medical marijuana center would be a form of age discrimination.
Kriho believes the bill would destroy patients’ access to their medicine, drive up prices and force patients back to the black market.
Meanwhile, Romer said he is looking out for the patients’ best interest with the legislation.
“My job was to write a medical marijuana bill consistent with the voters’ intent of Amendment 20,” he said. Amendment 20 was the measure approved by voters in 2000 that allows for seriously ill Coloradans to use medical marijuana. HB 1284 now moves to the Senate Appropriations Committee.