By Gene Davis, DENVER DAILY NEWS
Following last week’s death threat from a supposed medical marijuana activist, a lawmaker looking to place limits on Colorado’s booming medical marijuana industry says he won’t be bullied by “thugs and knuckleheads.”
Meanwhile, Brian Vicente, a leading medical marijuana attorney, believes Sen. Chris Romer, D-Denver, might be using the phone message to drum up support for a controversial set of amendments he has tacked on to a medical marijuana reform bill being heard today.
Romer received a profanity-laced voicemail on April 20, the unofficial holiday for marijuana, from a man who said that “drug dealers” would likely shoot him for raising the nonrefundable application fees for people looking to open medical marijuana centers. Romer said he was undeterred by the voicemail and shared the message with multiple media outlets, including the Denver Daily News.
“I’ve been very clear from the beginning that I had to put 80 percent of the people who are doing a phony retail model out of business,” he said. “But I’m not going to be intimidated by a bunch of thugs and knuckleheads.”
Romer should have gone to the police immediately if he worried that the message was a legitimate death threat, according to Vicente. Otherwise he is “using a prank phone call to push his restrictive agenda,” he said.
Romer today is set to introduce amendments that would ban people under the age of 23 from entering medical marijuana centers, raise the non refundable application fees for a medical marijuana center to up to $35,000, and require centers with 300 patients or more to have licensed medical or message professionals on site for at least 30 hours per week.
“My hope is that the bill will clean up the industry,” he said.
Vicente, however, is frustrated that Romer is “wholesale shredding” a number of compromises that he believes have been made between the patient and law enforcement communities over House Bill 1284. Banning people under the age of 23 from medical marijuana centers is “age discrimination” and would send young people “in a wheelchair to Civic Center Park to get medicine,” according to Vicente.
“It’s just very shortsighted and a bad idea,” he said.
The Colorado Medical Society has said that there is a significant risk for addiction to marijuana for people under the age of 23. Therefore, Romer believes it’s common sense to bar young people from medical marijuana centers.
Romer also thinks that requiring large centers to have medical professionals on site would help bring the focus back to wellness. Vicente argued the amendment would raise the price for center owners and, in turn, patients.
Lawmakers are scheduled to hear HB 1284 today at 2 p.m. at the Old Supreme Court Chambers, 200 E. Colfax Ave. Public comment will be allowed at the hearing.
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.