By Sam Sabzehzar
As Colorado is debating how to track medical marijuana in the state, lawmakers have turned to ideas such as fingerprint scanning and radio frequency identification devices which has many groups around the country up in arms, from patient advocacy groups and privacy advocates to patients like Diane Bilyeu, 49, who was in a car accident over a decade ago, right before Colorado first legalized the plant for medical use (only).
Officials say this will help them monitor use and abuse and plan to track every part of every process from seed to sale but privacy advocates, patient advocacy groups, and collective owners view this type of tracking outside the realm of medical marijuana regulation.
Diane relies on a an average of two grams of cannabis a day to alleviate her chronic pain, a condition that other compassionate friendly states aren’t compassionate about. In Colorado, however, chronic pain ‘counts’ as a reason permissible by the state to allow the use of the plant as a medicine. As Ms. Bilyeu explains, “this is a matter of my functioning daily living. Some day I need more or less (than 2 grams). I don’t know what business it is of the government’s.”
While the specifics of Colorado’s efforts are non-existant, regulators plan to have a draft by January to use a central computer system (in order to monitor patient’s and their buying habits and mark anything out of the ordinary as well) and video surveillance. Colorado could also require dispensaries to check state issued identification cards, such as a driver’s license, when purchasing medicine.
“It’s akin to the protections that are in place for pharmacies, or a wagering line at a horse or dog track,” said Matt Cook, the senior director for medical marijuana enforcement for the Colorado Department of Revenue. “You need to maintain the public confidence in what is going on, and the only way to do that is through these systems.”
According to the Associate Press, Cook said the state “has no clue how much medical marijuana now is ending up on the black market because it lacks central tracking. An unscrupulous buyer could shop at several dispensaries and stock up on large quantities of pot, with no way to notice that Patient X is buying marijuana from multiple businesses.”
While patients are fighting for the privacy on their quantity and frequency to be protected with the same confidentiality as all doctor/patient relationships, others argue that until marijuana isn’t prohibited, there is no way to accurately monitor the black market of it. Furthermore, when it is no long prohibited there will be no reason to go to such measures to make sure it doesn’t end up in a black market.
For Mr. Cook to explain that his actions are to ensure public confidence, he is making the assumption that by eroding our 4th Amendment and HIPAA laws, the State is maintaining public confidence. It is worth noting that these tracking systems are coming from a senior director within Colorado’s Department of Revenue, highlighting the very reason many states are finding medical marijuana difficult to regulate in the first place.
“It seems like there could be an ulterior motive here,” said Colorado patient who uses medicine for diabetic neuropathy. “Why do they need to keep such close track? Opiate abuse is far more prevalent and far more destructive than any marijuana use or abuse.”
Colorado’s medical marijuana dispensaries can operate for-profit, which is not the case in California, and because they are allowed to operate within a for-profit model, Mr. Cook is in a position to ensure that the money generated from the medical use of cannabis in the state trickles up. What they will do with that money is another story, but for now it’s safe to say Big Brother has bigger plans.