The Current State of Colorado’s Medical Marijuana Rules and Regulations
Alpine Herbal Wellness and
Member of the Department of Revenue MMJ Advisory Committee
Looking back, 2010 was a momentous year for medical cannabis patients and providers in Colorado and the nation.
Using the constitutional amendment passed in 2000 as a basis, the Colorado state legislature passed the first medical marijuana law (HB 1284) in the nation that allows for a free enterprise, commercial MMJ industry. The law is not perfect by any means, but HB 1284 lays a foundation upon which a regulatory framework is being created to reassure the public, re-legitimize the industry, and provide guidance for law enforcement and local governments. It is also proving to be a model that many other states and countries are looking to for guidance in developing their own laws to regulate medical cannabis.
HB 1284 has many flaws which must and will be addressed in the 2011 legislative session. This is a natural part of the legislative process. When laws are passed based on inadequate information and fear, they often contain provisions that do not make sense in the real world and/or may be unconstitutional. This is true of HB 1284.
That said, Colorado’s Department of Revenue (DOR) was required to develop rules to regulate medical marijuana patients and providers, and provide guidelines for local authorities to follow in implementing HB 1284. Matt Cook, the Senior Director of the enforcement division of the DOR, established an open rule-making process by creating an advisory committee that included participation by the medical cannabis industry, patient advocates, law enforcement and state and local government authorities.
For the past four months the DOR and advisory committee members have spent hundreds of hours to understand HB 1284 and develop regulations that will implement the intent of the law. In both sub-committee workgroups and the entire committee, participants created rules or adapted rules from other regulated industries. These rules will be presented for public comment on January 27th and 28th, 2011. There may be further changes to this set of rules as a result of the public’s comments.
In developing the rules, the DOR has come to realize that there are numerous provisions of HB 1284 that must be revised as well as provisions that must be added to enable patient access to medicine, providers to function efficiently and local authorities to effectively and fairly enforce the law. In these cases the DOR and the industry will work hand-in-hand to create statutory authority to provide a basis for appropriate rules.
A primary case in point is an effort to remove the 35 day waiting period between a patient receiving a physician’s recommendation to use medicinal cannabis and his or her ability to receive the medicine. While the DOR can only describe the pros & cons of the issue to the legislature, Mr. Cook has said he personally supports this issue.
In other cases, there are disagreements between the medical marijuana industry and the DOR which must be resolved through legislative action. Of particular concern to the industry and patients alike is the DOR requirement for video tracking of patients purchasing medicine which has a chilling effect on patient’s sense of security and confidentiality. This is likely to be an area in which the industry will go to the legislature to seek changes in the law to protect patient confidentiality.
Finally, there may be many provisions of HB 1284 that may well violate the state constitution. These provisions will have to be challenged in the courts. But until the challenges are upheld by the courts, we must live and operate within the laws, rules and regulations that have been developed to this point.