Steamboat Springs State Sen. Al White wants to change the way medical marijuana is grown and distributed in Colorado, but federal law is standing in the way of his plans.
White, R-Hayden, last week issued a news release stating that he wanted the state to create a monopoly on medical marijuana to prevent what he described as a “free-for-all.” It went on to say that White was drafting legislation that would have the state grow marijuana that would then be dispensed by licensed pharmacies.
But White has since learned that although the federal government has signaled it will not focus on prosecuting medical marijuana cases in states where medicinal marijuana has been legalized, the drug cannot be distributed by pharmacies. Marijuana remains a Schedule 1 controlled substance. Pharmacies are licensed to distribute only substances classified as Schedule 2 and lower.
On Monday, White said he wanted the state to grow and distribute the drug to ensure that dispensaries don’t turn to the black market to meet demand.
“What I have heard anecdotally from consumers is the prices are shooting up 200 to 300 percent,” White said. “What we’re seeing happen is demand outpacing supply, and when that happens, a dispensary owner, while having the best intentions, is not going to leave his shelf spaces empty with no product to sell.”
White said that could mean turning to drug dealers, but he said he has not heard of that happening at any dispensary yet.
Charlie Magnuson, co-owner of D and C Medical Marijuana, LLC and Therapeutic Massage in Steamboat Springs, said his business has not had any trouble meeting demand, and he emphasized that his business follows the law. He also said he realizes medical marijuana is more expensive than illegally purchased drugs, but he hopes that will change as the market matures.
“I’m hoping it will come down where legal medical marijuana is lower than anything on the black market, and that will discourage people from using the black market,” he said.
Magnuson declined to give the prices of marijuana sold at his dispensary.
White said the intention for his planned legislation was to bring more reliability to the medical marijuana market, not to discourage it.
“I’m trying to bring reliable quality review and consistent quality to the program, and also some professional respectability to the dispensation of it,” he said. “The federal government seems to be the biggest stumbling block in that.”
White said he is now stumped about how to create the change he would like to see in medical marijuana law, and he’s leaving future legislation up to other lawmakers.
“I honestly couldn’t come up with anything other than this that resolved the problem,” he said.