Pubdate: Thu, 09 Feb 2012 Source: Summit Daily News (CO) Copyright: 2012 Summit Daily News Contact: http://apps.summitdaily.com/forms/letter/index.php Website: http://www.summitdaily.com/home.php Details: http://www.mapinc.org/media/587 Author: Bruce Brown, Candidate for D.A. MEDICAL MARIJUANA: WHERE WE GO FROM HERE As a candidate for district attorney for the Fifth Judicial District, I have heard from many voters who have legitimate concerns about whether the current medical marijuana laws are working. A district attorney is responsible for the enforcement of all laws; however, there is wide latitude in how vigorously they are enforced. The current medical marijuana system has both flaws and benefits. The primary benefit being for prescribed patients experiencing real health quality improvement. However, there is room for improving upon the current regulatory system - not by throwing our collective hands in the air, surrendering any form of marijuana regulation or by returning to a system all marijuana possession is illegal - but instead by adopting a course between those two extremes. The proper course, I believe, is that law enforcement and prosecutors should make unlawful marijuana possession a low priority, allowing more time to patrol and prosecute other law violators such as violent criminals and thieves. However, offenders who break marijuana laws, such as mere possessors exceeding lawful amounts or adults under 21, should be subjected to a drug evaluation, paid for by the offender, to determine whether or not they require drug treatment. If they do require treatment as determined by a certified addiction counselor, they should complete treatment rather than be aggressively prosecuted. Those not at risk would pay the public back for the cost associated with their criminal justice contact and have their records cleared. The recent history through which changing the current system of marijuana regulation needs to be viewed includes a 2000 State of Colorado voter-approved initiative, licensing the use and sale of medical marijuana, with a special class distinguished from otherwise illegal drug users, allowing them to grow, sell, possess and get high on marijuana, but which left people without a medical marijuana "card" at risk of arrest and prosecution. However, permitted users who light up are not exclusively protected by these statutes, but must contend with the federal government's laws that classify marijuana use, possession and distribution, as illegal. To the federal government, smoked marijuana is a substance without any medicinal benefit, setting up a tug-o-war between a state's ability to permit a usage that the U.S. government criminalizes. While the defined health problems qualifying a Colorado medical marijuana cardholder are limited, the maladies present in the current medical marijuana system are unlimited. Problems include that some medical marijuana card applicants - and their physicians approving the treatment - likely falsify a medical conditions to enable lawful marijuana use. Otherwise law-abiding people deceiving their doctors to remain law-abiding is an inconsistency deserving a law change. Laws don't exist for their own purposes but gain respect when they reflect the citizenry subjected to them. The prosecution of regular folk running afoul of marijuana regulation has serious consequences, marking otherwise clean criminal records and resulting in actual job or, job opportunity loss. There is also tension between state law, permitting marijuana use and possession, and federal law, preventing its transportation or possession in threshold amounts and potentially threatening a physician's livelihood if the FDA revokes a license to prescribe any classified drug. Several marijuana legalization initiatives are being shaped for Colorado voters. One of the proposed new laws would do away with obtaining physician approval for "medical" marijuana users aged 21 or older, disconnecting lawful marijuana possession from medical need but keeping in place dispensary networks and taxing up to 15 percent to be earmarked for schools. We should not ignore that easing marijuana availability has the risk of an increased number of problem users, a significant societal cost. I believe the tradeoff between potential increased addictions however, does not outweighed continuing criminalization of unlicensed, small amount, marijuana possession. Bruce Brown is a licensed attorney and practices law in Idaho Springs. He can be reached at He is also a candidate for district attorney in the Fifth Judicial District - www.brucebrownforda.com - --- MAP posted-by: Richard R Smith Jr.