Pubdate: Thu, 09 Feb 2012
Source: Summit Daily News (CO)
Copyright: 2012 Summit Daily News
Author: Bruce Brown, Candidate for D.A.


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 -
- ---
MAP posted-by: Richard R Smith Jr.