Banning medical marijuana businesses is a public policy decision that can have a severe impact on the quality of life for many Steamboat Springs residents. Voters will soon cast their votes to keep medical marijuana under the statutory regulated scheme, or return to the former constitutional amendment voters passed in 2000. Making an informed decision requires understanding the differences between the constitutional amendment and the regulatory scheme. As the former senior director of enforcement with the Colorado Department of Revenue, I designed the regulatory framework to regulate medical marijuana businesses in Colorado. In creating this framework, I used my 35 years of law enforcement experience and designed this system to provide a safe and secure way to sell medical marijuana in a regulated manner.
During a recent debate, I was asked to explain the differences between the regulatory scheme created in 2010 and the constitutional amendment the voters passed in 2000. To begin the forum, I disclosed that I have retired from more than 35 years of successful public service and am now an industry and government consultant. Unfortunately, those in favor of the ban chose to try to attack my integrity instead of attacking the factual differences between the statutory-regulatory scheme and the constitutional amendment. The facts speak for themselves, and I encourage everyone to watch the factual presentation I made at the beginning of the debate and learn about the significant differences between the two provisions.
Yes, there are very good reasons that the General Assembly chose not to rely on the constitutional amendment written by marijuana advocates in 2000, and lawmakers subsequently passed the Medical Marijuana Act in 2010.
Here are a few facts for your consideration:
■ Licenses: Required for businesses, owners, managers and employees.
■ Rigorous background investigation; no felons.
■ Security: More restrictive than casinos and pharmacies; law enforcement has access (without a search warrant) to required 24/7 Web-based video surveillance detailing everything; no requirement to keep plants alive if seized.
■ The location of the businesses must comply with all local zoning laws, thereby generally prohibiting them from operating within residential neighborhoods (local discretion).
■ No licenses.
■ No background checks; felons OK.
■ Security: No security; search warrants required; must keep any plants seized alive pending the outcome of any court action (plants are valued at $6,000 each).
■ No statutory requirement on location of businesses; can operate in neighborhoods and near schools.
The regulatory framework provides protections for patients, businesses and the community at-large and was enacted because of the number of businesses operating under the constitutional amendment that were not regulated. The Medical Marijuana Act diminishes the black market by providing regulatory oversight, increases government revenue and provides safe access to medicine for Coloradans who are sick and dying.
While the argument can be made that the constitutional amendment provides similar protections, constitutional caregivers remain an unregulated business with little or no oversight.