Monday, November 9, 2009

CO Senator Already Wants Medical Marijuana Crackdown

Sen. White seeks crackdown on medical marijuana industry

Bill would leave dispensing up to state, pharmacies

John Stroud
Post Independent Staff
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado,

Saturday, November 7, 2009

DENVER, Colorado — State Sen. Al White, R-Hayden, whose district
includes Glenwood Springs and Rifle, said Friday he plans to introduce
legislation next session to regulate the rapidly expanding medical
marijuana industry in Colorado.

"What we've effectively got now is de facto decriminalization of
marijuana," White stated in a press release. "That is not what
the people of this state voted for."

Colorado voters in November 2000 approved a constitutional amendment
legalizing medical use of marijuana to treat eight specific conditions.
White noted that the General Assembly, however, never enacted rules
governing consumption or distribution of the drug after the amendment's

Recently, some local governments have been trying to get a handle on the
industry as largely unregulated marijuana dispensaries have popped up
across the state, including several in Glenwood Springs and throughout
the region from Aspen to Rifle.

White proposes to take the business out of the hands of entrepreneurial
"caregivers, " as they are known, and establish a state monopoly
to grow and distribute marijuana. That will help keep black market
marijuana out of the supply chain, he said.

White's bill would also crack down on illicit distribution of marijuana
to unqualified users by requiring any prescription for the substance to
be filled by a licensed pharmacist.

One local dispensary operator, Jesse Lafayette of Peaceful Warrior
Medical Marijuana on Sixth Street in Glenwood Springs, said that would
essentially put him and others like him out of business.

Lafayette said White's proposal amounts to a "government
takeover," and only serves to perpetrate the war on drugs.

"It seems to me like they're still fighting marijuana and continuing
this war on drugs, when what we really need from our elected officials
is more advocacy for marijuana and more awareness," Lafayette said.

"This would basically put me out of business, because I grow my
marijuana for my patients," he added. "Plus, you don't know what
is going into the plants if the state grows it. My whole intent is to
provide something organic and healthy that will benefit my patients.

A state-run distribution system would also remove the intimacy between
the grower, caregiver and patient, he said.

White counters, however, that there needs to be more control over
medical marijuana.

"We don't allow unlicensed people to simply open up a shop and sell
controlled substances like Valium or Oxycontin — that's why they
call them `controlled substances,' " said White. "So, why are
we allowing that to happen with medical marijuana?"

White said the state's failure to regulate the industry has given rise
to concerns that illicit drug cartels are using dispensaries as
"quasi-legal" outlets for black market marijuana.

"There are also concerns that the drug is being handed out liberally
to many who don't really qualify," White said.

He noted that, in 2007, fewer than 2,000 people held medical marijuana
cards. "That number has now grown to around 13,000, with some 600
new applications coming in every day," he said.

"If the state doesn't take some action to put an end to this
`wild west' environment, Colorado is going to become the global
retail headquarters for international drug cartels. That is simply not
responsible, " White added.

Lafayette said he's seen no evidence that international cartels are
becoming involved, at least as far as he's concerned.

"I've not been having any pressure at my store from cartels," he
said. "If it were happening, I'd be bombarded by people to buy from
someone else.

"Ultimately, more awareness will take the drug lords out of it,"
he added. "It seems like Sen. White wants to put his energy into
fighting marijuana and continuing the war on drugs, instead of putting
his energy into to making this all legitimate."

White said his plan would also help the state deal with an estimated $1
billion budget gap over the next few years.

Under his plan, revenue from the sale of marijuana would initially be
split equally between a "rainy day fund" and a special fund for
colleges and universities.

After the "rainy day fund" reached $1 billion, the revenue would
be directed entirely to higher education.

"The legislature has an obligation to honor the will of the voters
and make this work," White acknowledged. "I'm looking forward to
working with my colleagues across party lines next year to make that

The State Legislature convenes its next session in January 2010.


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