By Debi Brazzale, COLORADO NEWS AGENCY
GOP Sen. Scott Renfroe, of Greeley, says voters should be consulted before lawmakers make determinations about the best method for dispensing medical marijuana to patients, but Democratic members of the Senate Judiciary Committee would not be convinced. They voted down Renfroe’s proposal asking voters to approve strict new guidelines to curtail the way medical marijuana is currently being distributed.
In 2000, voters approved Amendment 20, which authorizes the use of medical marijuana for patients who might benefit from its use. But the amendment also left somewhat vague how the drug would be distributed. Since that time, the number of medical marijuana “dispensaries” – retail outlets that produce and dispense medical marijuana products— has grown exponentially.
Senate Concurrent Resolution 5 would have asked the voters to decide whether to stop the dispensary model and would have limited the distribution to a narrower definition of caregiver. The resolution was a pre-emptive move that would negate House Bill 1284, sponsored by Sen. Chris Romer, D-Denver, which creates a framework in which dispensaries can legally operate.
Jefferson County District Attorney Scott Storey told the Senate Judiciary panel members that the passage of Amendment 20 in 2000 did not authorize or even mention the notion of medical marijuana being dispensed through retail outlets and that the emergence of dispensaries has been premature.
“HB 1284 is putting the cart before the horse in my mind,” said Storey.
Prior to SCR 5 being introduced, HB 1284 was built on the premise that the dispensary model for distribution was inevitable and needed clarification and regulation by the state.
Renfroe wants to rein in the assumption that the voters approved the dispensary model in the legalization of medical marijuana and believes the prudent path is go back to the voters for the needed clarification in light of the issues that have cropped up with the dispensaries that are operating in a regulatory void.
“It’s time to go back to the voters,” said Renfroe. “The confusion has gone on long enough.”
Much of the confusion has been over the definition of “caregiver” authorized in Amendment 20 to dispense medical marijuana. Renfroe thinks SCR5 will solve the problem.
“This simply defines what a primary caregiver is–and what it is not,” said Renfroe. “It’s that simple.”
Romer did not support the SCR and said his measure, HB1284, will go a long way in taming the proliferation of dispensaries and will actually reduce the number of dispensaries by 50 percent, according to the Department of Revenue.
“ I don’t think we need to send it back to the voters statewide. I think that individual communities will need to decide,” said Romer. ”Let’s let the new rules be put in place and then look at this a year from now.”