Colorado medical marijuana law raising issues
Ryan Summerlin June 25, 2010
DENVER (AP) – Colorado’s new medical marijuana law hasn’t even gone into effect, and police, attorneys and lawmakers have identified dozens of problems that could hamper regulation and enforcement.
There are questions about zoning laws. Authorities say it’s hard to investigate compliance. Correct dosages are unknown. It’s difficult to locate potentially dangerous growing operations. And the lack of a federal medical marijuana law raises serious questions for banks.
“We are probably going to have to do some tweaking, but we haven’t seen the regulations that state agencies will put on the books,” said Rep. Tom Massey, a Republican from Poncha Springs who sponsored the measure.
Massey said local communities were given authority to make their own rules regulating dispensaries, but some issues are off-limits, including regulation of caregivers.
Massey said one big issue is finding a way to prevent organized crime from moving in and taking over.
“We’ve heard issues of Russian mafia, the Mexican mafia. We want to make sure this business stays clean and heavily regulated,” Massey said.
Massey said there are no established dosages and it may take years to come up with medical standards. He said patients are allowed to possess two ounces of the drug, but nothing prevents repeat purchases.
The law also keeps the location of marijuana growers secret. Attorney General John Suthers and some news outlets objected to that provision.
Under the new law, backers say muncipalities can pass regulations to keep grow operations out of residential areas.
Aurora Police Chief Dan Oates showed lawmakers and civic leaders attending the annual Colorado Municipal League conference on Thursday photographs of dangerous growing facilities powered by dozens of extension cords plugged into the wall that were being fertilized with dangerous chemicals which were dumped into the water supply. He said lawmakers need to review the confidentiality requirements in the new laws.
“I fully expect that a year from now, when you folks reconvene, there will have been at least one tragic fire as a result of this activity,” Oates told lawmakers.
Attorney Corey Hoffman told lawmakers federally chartered banks are refusing to accept deposits from dispensaries over concerns about accepting drug money and a federal medical marijuana law that could fix it has been stymied.
He said many legal questions have been raised that may have to be sorted out by lawmakers and the courts, including zoning laws, public safety issues, licensing fees, confidentiality requirements, regulation of grow houses, control over marijuana food products, advertising limits, search and seizure laws, workplace consumption and property rights.
The new law is one of 50 that go into effect July 1.
Other new laws include reducing late vehicle registration fees, repealing special interest tax refunds and barring slow-moving vehicles from the left lane of I-70 on steep uphill stretches.