Pubdate: Mon, 07 Jun 2010
Source: Summit Daily News (CO)
Copyright: 2010 Associated Press
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Medicinal)


DENVER (AP) - Colorado has enacted statewide regulations for the 
medical marijuana industry which could potentially allow hundreds of 
dispensaries to continue operating.

Gov. Bill Ritter on Monday signed two bills passed by lawmakers this 
session to rein in the estimated 1,100 medical marijuana dispensaries 
that have cropped up around the state.

Both laws take effect immediately. One allows only doctors in good 
standing to recommend medical marijuana. The other sets up a uniform 
set of rules for marijuana dispensaries as well as growers and makers 
of marijuana-infused snacks preferred by some patients.

Regulators expect only about half of the existing dispensaries to be 
able to continue operating under the rules.

In his state of the state message in January, Ritter urged the 
industry to work with communities and law enforcement to come up with 
compromises that protect the public and patients using medical marijuana.

"The companion measures I signed today strike a delicate balance 
between protecting public safety and respecting the will of the 
voters," Ritter said.

The measures face potential legal challenges from supporters who say 
they go too far, allowing communities like Vail, Aurora, Superior, 
Arapahoe County and Colorado Springs to clamp down on the industry.

"On the one hand, we are pleased it legitimizes this health care 
industry; however, we are concerned it may be overly strict and could 
cut off patient access to medication as a result of the dwindling 
number of dispensaries," said Brian Vicente, executive director of 
Sensible Colorado, a medical marijuana patients' group.

Under the new laws, cities and counties are able ban dispensaries 
within their borders. In places where they're allowed, owners will 
have to undergo criminal background checks. Dispensaries must grow 70 
percent of their marijuana, a provision aimed at keeping tabs on 
where it is being sold.

Karen O'Keefe, director of state policies for the Marijuana Policy 
Project, said a state-regulated medical marijuana program is already 
in effect in New Mexico and similar programs will soon be operational 
in Rhode Island, Maine, New Jersey and Washington, D.C.

O'Keefe said the number of sanctioned dispensaries to be allowed in 
each of those states and the District of Columbia is fewer than 10. 
Colorado's law will authorize hundreds, and potentially more if 
future demand increases.

Colorado's medical marijuana industry will be overseen by the state 
revenue department in much the same way that casinos are regulated. 
Inspectors will investigate the books of marijuana businesses to look 
for criminal ties.

Fees to be set by regulators will pay for the system, and smaller 
dispensary owners fear they may not be able to afford them. Some 
dispensaries will also likely have to merge with growers to meet the 
requirement that they grow most of their own pot.
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