By Peter Marcus, DENVER DAILY NEWS
Medical marijuana advocates are concerned that proposed new regulations for the industry will result in patient tracking, scaring patients away from wanting to be a part of the system.
The Cannabis Therapy Institute is asking advocates to oppose the draft rules by the Colorado Department of Revenue because they say it will lead to fear.
The rules, released at the end of August, consist of 92 pages of proposed regulations. Much of it will become the basis for permanent regulations for the burgeoning medical marijuana industry in Colorado, and perhaps set a template for states across the nation.
But while state regulators say they are only developing “protections,” patients and advocates are arguing that the rules would violate constitutional rights to privacy as a patient.
“Caregivers reluctantly gave up their constitutional right to provide medicine to their patients, and now they are faced with volumes of new regulations and thousands of dollars more in costs to bring their ‘centers’ into compliance,” states an e-mail to supporters from the Cannabis Therapy Institute, referring to Medical Marijuana Centers, or dispensaries.
One of the draft rules calls for dispensaries to use surveillance cameras to record every transaction and processing step, known as seed-to-sale monitoring, says the Cannabis Therapy Institute, which has reviewed the entire proposal several times since it was released at the end of August at a Department of Revenue workgroup meeting on medical marijuana regulation.
Dispensaries would also be required to link their point-of-sale systems with their video surveillance systems, and patients would be required to place their medical marijuana registry cards and driver’s license in a space on the counter so that the cameras could capture it. Advocates fear this move will lead to patient tracking and privacy violations.
Matt Cook, head of the Colorado Department of Revenue’s Medical Marijuana Enforcement Division, explains the Web-based tracking system as necessary for enforcement. The system will be able to tell if a patient has visited multiple dispensaries, seeking to have multiple primary caregivers. Under Colorado law, a patient is technically only allowed to have one primary caregiver. Dispensaries will then be encouraged to turn the patient away.
“They have begun writing the hundreds of pages of regulations, which are forcing these formerly legal business owners out of business,” says the Cannabis Therapy Institute.
The advocacy group for medical marijuana patients also believes the Web-based tracking system will scare people away from registering.
“If patients have to swipe a card and get into a government database every time they buy medicine, no patient will want to be part of the program,” states the Cannabis Therapy Institute.
Cook, however, sees the issue as being about enforcement and fairness.
“This is all about a level playing field and putting some protections in place,” he said.