Thursday, October 13, 2011
Editor's note: This letter was written by Dan Hartman. The previously published author was incorrect.
I am the director of the Medical Marijuana Enforcement Division (MMED) of the Colorado Department of Revenue, and I want to make you fully aware how your vote will affect the availability of medical marijuana in your community. In 2000, the citizens of Colorado voted to legalize the use of medical marijuana, and therefore, the ability for lawfully registered patients to obtain and use medical marijuana within your community will not change. If your community bans commercial medical marijuana businesses (centers, cultivations and infused-product manufacturers) you will only remove the regulated medical marijuana distribution model from your community.
Our agency is tasked with building and maintaining a transparent and unambiguous regulatory scheme within which Colorado’s commercial medical marijuana industry will operate. Law enforcement officers who are criminal investigators determine if an applicant (owner) is able to meet statutory requirements by conducting extensive background investigations that delve into each applicant’s financial, criminal and personal history. These investigations ensure industry members meet statutory requirements such as financial stability and good character. Individuals who work as employees or vendors also must pass background checks to obtain an MMED occupational license allowing them to work within this industry.
The MMED regulatory compliance staff is made up of law enforcement criminal investigators and auditors who monitor commercial medical marijuana from seed to sale. Business owners must account for each plant introduced to growth medium to its final sale to a patient. They must install and maintain 24-hour video surveillance systems in each location, and they must adhere to stringent accounting controls and practices. Businesses are required to submit online reports and maintain extensive records on all product grown and any transactions or transfers that take place with their medical marijuana inventory. This regulatory scheme creates a closed system in which the product may be obtained and transferred only between these heavily regulated businesses. We partner with state and federal authorities and law enforcement to address concerns, stop illegal activity and, perhaps most importantly, provide a bright line to determine if a medical marijuana business is operating within this regulatory scheme.
Be aware that Colorado’s constitution ensures that lawfully registered patients may grow their own medical marijuana or obtain it from a caregiver. This right will not be affected by your vote to ban medical marijuana businesses. While caregivers are required to register their cultivation location with us, they are not under our jurisdiction and we cannot regulate their activities.
Citizens and law enforcement agencies in areas that have enacted bans have contacted us asking why we do not take action against those operating unlawfully within their jurisdiction. Unfortunately, communities that vote to ban commercial medical marijuana operations also ban the MMED from regulating and monitoring any and all medical marijuana activity within their community. Only those businesses operating within areas that allow for commercial medical marijuana will be regulated and monitored by the MMED.
I want Colorado citizens to truly understand what they are voting for or against. This ban will not remove medical marijuana from your community, but it will prevent the MMED from being able to help ensure that medical marijuana sales are regulated, monitored, safe, secure and taxed.
Director, Medical Marijuana Enforcement Division of the Colorado Department of Revenue