Created: Jul 04, 2016
Media coverage of Colorado's quasi-legalization has led to the impression that its citizens have safe, affordable access everywhere in the state. Sensationalist stories about funding schools, scholarships, and homeless-aid programs have made international news. What isn't being told, are the stories of patients still being persecuted, prohibition seeping back into legislation, and that reality is a very different picture. Here is the story, straight from the front lines of the Front Range.
Colorado medical was voted in around 2001. For 11 years, they had a functioning, and relatively acceptable medical marijuana program. Patients had the option of growing doctor recommended plant counts, dispensaries developed a system, and most patients had reasonable access what they needed. In 2012, Colorado celebrated a victory with the passage of A64, their recreational marijuana ballot initiative. This changed everything. We are absolutely for descheduling of cannabis, and know that cannabis can serve as a safe recreational alternative. However, legalizing recreational changed the face of everything medical, from the industry to the legislation. Washington , Alaska, and Oregon have also faced these same challenges, and quietly restricted their programs as well. This change is why patients are once again, on the steps of the State Capitol and in their city's streets here in Colorado and elsewhere.
Colorado now faces the threat of a prohibition reintroduction. Four years of legalization has had some expected speed bumps, and propaganda campaigns have fueled unrest in non-cannabis users. All along I-25 in places like Pueblo, Boulder, Denver, and Colorado Spring, Amendment 20 has come under fire. The State is slowly chipping away at Amendment 20. This has gone virtually unnoticed. What the news doesn't tell you is that Colorado is a Home Rule state. Local municipalities can change what they don't approve of (or they claim will be harmful to their city), and even opt-out of some state legislation. These decisions do not require a vote and are often made by less than a dozen officials who don’t necessarily have to follow the will of the people. Most of the local municipalities in Colorado have latched on to Home Rule and attacked every part of A-20 they could. Home grow rights have been virtually wiped out along the I-25 corridor. In Colorado Springs, the DEA presented an extremely passionate doomsday scenario to City Council. The agent presenting (Tim Scott), was almost yelling and looked as if he could have a stroke at any point. His face was red, voice elevated, and you could even hear the huffing and puffing on the video. Check it out here at time marker 5:12:25. When all was said and done, they cited 186 homes that were being looked at for out of state trafficking. 186. In Colorado Springs, there are over 185,000 homes. Running the numbers, 186 ”larger grow” homes out of over 185,000 results in 1/10 of 1% of a problem. Even if the statistics given were quadrupled like Mr. Scott claimed, that still is less than half a percent. So half of one percent gets medicine taken away from the sickest of patients, Colorado panics and calls in the DEA to prosecute you, and even more restrictive regulations (that only affect patients - not the intended illegal grows) get put into place. It is Reefer Madness all over again, and happening throughout Colorado.
On a state level, medical cannabis patients are being affected as well. While there was a huge victory with Jack's Bill (SB-1373), prohibition measures are starting to get introduced more frequently. This year, there are several initiatives being presented that could greatly impact patient access - the biggest issue being a statewide codification of residential home grow limits. With the loss of home grow rights, many patients lose access to medical marijuana.
Also being discussed is a grant program that would target "gray market" activity. That activity can be very subjective, and with over 300 sets of marijuana laws in the State of Colorado, it is difficult to determine exactly what is illegally occuring. That legal disparity leaves the definition of "gray market" nearly undefinable.
A move to "harmonize" or combine the language of the medical and recreational markets has began implementation. In October, the first installation went in that made the pathway to switch from a medical dispensary to a recreational center significantly easier. Another Bill HB 17-1034 is also harmonizing those languages. Our concern is that given the lure of recreational tax dollars, we will begin to see an even bigger push to stunt Amendment 20, in favor of one system for all marijuana sales. Sadly, a large portion of the cannabis industry is actually lobbying to make these changes happen. A recreational world would boost their bottom lines, and they all feel they will survive the battle over the monopoly. Other than their own financial interests, none of the industry leaders seem to be involved with helping protect the eroding patient rights. Keep in mind that the majority of recreational users and industry workers do not share these opinions, which are usually held by the owner or management staff of the business.
Slowly, patients are starting to see what is going on, but not quick enough. In Colorado Springs, several advocacy groups are working to preserve the basic patient rights. State wide American Medical Refugees, CannAbility, and Canna Patient Resource Connection have all been speaking out against these infractions and been trying to unite the patient community. Petitions like this one are starting to circulate around the internet, patients are starting to protest, and the community is coming together. We need your help though. We need 2 things to truly stop these onslaughts: 1. Federal deschedule, and 2. Consistent citizen involvement. Be sure you are registered to vote, you are actively involved with emailing your elected officials (on all relevant issues, not just cannabis), and join the movement to take back our country.
Don’t know how to help? Email CPRCofColorado@gmail.com for more information.