Pubdate: Wed, 02 Jan 2002
Source: Pueblo Chieftain (CO)
Copyright: 2002 The Star-Journal Publishing Corp.
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Medicinal)


DENVER (AP) - Fewer Coloradans have signed up for the state's medical- 
marijuana program than expected but officials say the pace may increase in 
coming months.

Ninety-nine Coloradans are legally smoking marijuana with their doctor's 
approval under the state's seven-month-old Medical Marijuana Registry program.

The figure is well behind its projected pace of 700 applicants in the first 
12 months, but registry administrator Gail Kelsey said a similar program in 
Oregon picked up steam after the first six months.

In Oregon, 61 patients got approvals in the first six months, and 594 by 
the end of the first year, said Chris Campbell, spokesman for the Oregon plan.

Kelsey said 61 percent of people on the registry say marijuana helps 
relieve pain, 30 percent say they need it for muscle spasms and 23 percent 
want relief from nausea.

An analysis of the first seven months shows no single doctor has 
recommended more than a few permits. Seventy-seven doctors signed 
authorization forms for their patients. A half-dozen signed more than one.

That's dramatically different from Oregon, where one doctor has signed 
certificates for 1,704 of the 1,808 patients since May 1999.

Thirteen months ago, Colorado voters approved the medical use of marijuana 
under tight rules. The law went into effect June 1.

Kelsey has rejected three applications. "Not for fraud, but just for 
incomplete applications," she said. "There's no abuse I am aware of."

Patients tell her the marijuana is providing great relief, she said.

"Their main complaints are that there is no place to get it - and the cost 
of the program," she said.

Patients must pay $140 a year for a permit.

Kelsey gives talks to physicians concerned about liability. She tells them 
that Drug Enforcement Agency officials have told her informally that 
doctors aren't breaking federal law by signing forms.

"They're merely recommending marijuana, not prescribing it," she said.

The law remains tricky, though, because it's still illegal for anyone to 
sell the drug to patients.

An amendment to the law allows patients to grow six plants of marijuana.

"That way, they're getting a clean supply by growing their own, not dealing 
with the corner drug dealer," she said.

However, Kelsey said she can't tell patients how to get the original seeds 
without helping the provider break the law. "They're on their own on that 
one," she said.
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MAP posted-by: Terry Liittschwager