Marathon Hearing In Colorado Produces Cannabis Bill Rewrite

Forgive me as I try to recall over 10 hours of testimony on Colorado Senate Bill 1284 given to the House Judiciary Committee. The bill would regulate medical marijuana in Colorado, and specifically addresses dispensaries, which are not actually mentioned in our Constitutional Amendment 20, but are being considered under the explosion of industry here in Colorado and other states.

The City of Denver has already implemented regulations on dispensaries and in doing so has generated more than $1 million dollars in licensing fees alone in just over a month.

To say the least, the repercussions are huge and far-reaching for SB 1284. The Bill would create a licensing system for dispensaries, and growers – but, it contains many things that medical marijuana proponents feel are unfair and far-reaching.

Rob Corry, who many of you know as a leading and local flame-throwing attorney who, it could be argued, is solely responsible for saving Colorado medical marijuana on numerous occasions, and for burning and burying the last attempt to regulate the system here in Colorado by Senator Chris Romer.

Corry has said SB 1284 is purely unconstitutional. For instance he says a provision in the bill that would allow local municipalities to ban dispensaries outright is a violation of patient’s constitutional rights. (Colorado is the only medical marijuana state with the law built into the State Constitution.)

I have sat with Rob Corry many times and gone over the multiple regulations and bills that have popped up in Colorado over the past year, and in each one Corry will go line by line doing a great job ripping apart every provision as being a violation in some way of the Constitutional amendment. He says to expect many lawsuits if the bill does make it through. Another provision that would have made dispensaries in Colorado non-profit was removed just before testimony started. Many politicians didn’t think it was a great idea to refuse millions of dollars in tax revenue because non-profits can’t be taxed like full retail operations.

It was a very important and groundbreaking event, and testimony started with some of the most powerful words spoken by both medical marijuana patients, and law enforcement.

Kevin Grimsinger – an Iraq war veteran who during Operation Enduring Freedom triggered a land mine and is now lucky to be alive, but a paraplegic with a severe brain injury – gave very emotional testimony to start. He asked the board why, if he has fought in some of the most dangerous places on earth for our country and freedom, can’t he have a place to safely use his medicine here at home.

“These centers provide a safe haven to not only purchase medical cannabis, but also to protect persons who might be going through similar life circumstances,” Grimsinger said. Not a caregiver near me had a dry eye during his words. A provision in the bill would ban on-site consumption of marijuana, and that creates a problem for veterans in government housing, because they are not allowed to use marijuana at their home. It seemed the committee was also impacted by the many veterans and disabled patients who approached the podium for their allotted three minutes. Many asked to make sure the most important part of medical marijuana in Colorado is not forgotten, asking that patient’s rights and safe access to be kept intact.

Once the law enforcement and prohibitionists started to be called up, it seemed never ending. Hours upon hours of testimony with reefer madness, and talk of dispensaries creating mass crime seemed never ending and like a plan to out-wait some of the patients and pro-med marijuana people, who were patiently waiting for their time to speak. It seemed to work as by the end of testimony many on our side had gone home because the war of attrition had won out because their disability just wouldn’t allow them to sit for the 10 hours plus needed to finish testimony from everyone.

One of the most harped-on elements of the night from law enforcement was what I mentioned above, that dispensaries cause crime. One after another, Police Chief and officer approached the committee to tell of increased crime rates, and how the streets will be filled with children smoking marijuana.

One officer even said, “…drug money is the new milk money…”. The committee responded very well to these claims and brought up comments by the Los Angeles Police Chief who stated dispensaries are not any more of a crime spot than banks or liquor stores. In fact it was read into record in Colorado liquor stores and banks are targets of crime almost twice as much as dispensaries are, and the stats are backed up by other cites with dispensaries like Los Angeles as well.

I personally signed up to testify and spoke for the many marijuana offenders out their in Colorado, as I am a marijuana felon myself. I plead guilty to possession of eight ounces or more of marijuana in 2007, and under the current bill I, and any other felon or drug related misdemeanor “criminal” would not be allowed to open or operate a dispensary. I told the crowd that we are a country of second chances and if we can meet the politicians and law enforcement in the middle on many of these regulations, they should meet some of us in the middle and create a provision to allow those in my shoes to make amends and be allowed to participate in this pioneering industry.

People like me are punished over and over for their so called “mistake” of being involved with marijuana, even though many of us have paid our fair share and then some for the so called “crime”. It is my life’s passion to grow marijuana and I would be no prouder than to say I am a regulated farmer and provider of this great medicine, I told them. I hope they listened to all of us who spoke.

Ultimately, I was very proud of the House Judiciary Committee and their knowledge of medical marijuana and the flow of the supply chain. It was obvious many of them had spoken to their constituents, and they had no issue with challenging anyone on any reefer madness that was brought up.

Amendments to SB 1284 were not made last night, but there will be changes, the Committee concluded. So, let’s hope the changes are positive and Colorado can stand tall as being one of the first States to fully accept a system of regulation.

To add to it all, the bill states Colorado officials must petition the government to reschedule marijuana to a Schedule II drug.

The pressure continues. Won’t you join us?

Tim Martin, also known as John Doe, is the lead host and show producer of John Doe Radio.