Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Legality issues further clouded by recent pot-dispensary arrests

The arrest of three people who police said were running a one-stop pot
shop has highlighted yet another murky corner of the state's
medical-marijuana law, people on all sides of the issue said Tuesday.

Investigators with the North Metro Drug Task Force arrested the trio
Saturday in Brighton on suspicion of felony drug-distribution charges,
after officers broke up what they described as an "assembly line" to
give patients medical-marijuana recommendations and then pot.

Task force Sgt. Jim Gerhardt said the reason for the arrests was that
police believe the people running the operation were selling marijuana
to people who couldn't legally buy it, even though they had received the
required doctor recommendation.

Ultimately, the case hinges on a single question: When is a
medical-marijuana patient legally able to purchase marijuana?

"Nobody knows exactly what is in bounds and what is out of bounds,"
Gerhardt said.

Jeffrey Gappa, a Brighton chiropractor at whose office the incident took
place, and his wife, Christy, were arrested. Gappa did not respond to a
request for comment. Also arrested was Forrest Charlesworth, who
Gerhardt said was dispensing the marijuana.

Colorado medical-marijuana patients who hold a registry card from the
state are shielded from arrest. But with the state running months behind
in getting eligible patients their cards, thousands of patients are
operating in a paperwork gray area, using their doctor's note and other
documents to verify their legal status.

Gerhardt said patients waiting for cards need to show their
recommendation and proof that they've sent their registry application to
the state to be unquestionably legal.

"If they haven't gotten their paperwork into the state, they're not yet
eligible," Gerhardt said.

That was the reason for the arrests Saturday, when police allege
patients who had just received a recommendation went straight to buying

Ned Calonge, Colorado's chief medical officer, said the state has 35
days to issue a card. If it can't meet that deadline — as it can't
now — then the application is deemed approved.

"You couldn't get (the doctor's recommendation) signed that day and be
considered to be on the registry," he said.

But, under the state constitutional provision approving medical
marijuana, patients don't need the state's permission to be legal, said
Matt Brown of the Coloradans for Medical Marijuana Regulation advocacy

Instead, patients who have a doctor's recommendation but aren't on the
state registry can use the recommendation as an affirmative defense if
they are arrested.

Gerhardt said the Adams County district attorney's office will weigh
that provision when deciding whether to pursue formal charges.

The whole situation frustrates dispensary owners who say they just want
to operate lawful, responsible businesses.

Josh Stanley, who owns Peace and Medicine in Denver, said he turns away
more than half the people who come to his dispensary looking for a
doctor's recommendation and said he requires patients to have applied to
the state registry before being able to shop at the dispensary.

He said he hopes state lawmakers will create regulations this year that
give clarity to both police and dispensary owners.

"Once the regulations come in that we're asking for, that will naturally
push out the people who want to do it the wrong way," he said.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Your blog keeps getting better and better! Your older articles are not as good as newer ones you have a lot more creativity and originality now. Keep it up!
And according to this article, I totally agree with your opinion, but only this time! :)