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Colorado Considers But Decides Not to Implement Change in Medical Cannabis Law

The Denver Post reported on July 20 that the state Board of Health planned to "vote on a proposal that may cut off some of 7,360 registered patients' access to medical marijuana" ("Colorado Board of Health may revise marijuana law"). The proposed change aimed to "shut down small and large medical marijuana dispensaries by limiting them to selling their marijuana herbs to five patients at a time." Officials worried that the definition of "caregiver" was too broad and wanted to limit the word's meaning to "someone who does more [than] just supply marijuana." This would, in effect, make dispensaries - some of which "serve more than 600 patients" - illegal. Medical marijuana patients and advocates turned out in droves and provided "several hours of testimony," which touched on topics ranging from whether or not the Board of Health had "the right to meddle in the constitutional amendment passed by voters;" the obstacles the change would present to patients seeking safe, legal access to their medication; and the difficulties the proposal would pose to dispensaries' ability to "survive and continue offering a range of marijuana varieties to treat different diseases," AP reported on July 21, 2009 ("Health Board Nixes Change to Colo. Pot Use"). Law enforcement also voiced their concerns. AP states that Colorado "health and law enforcement officials argued the system is susceptible to fraud and causes confusion over who can legally grow marijuana."

However, the board ultimately decided in favor of Colorado's patients and caregivers (dispensaries included), refusing to implement the proposed change in a 6-3 vote that elicited cheers from "the audience of about 100." The board did adopt "other recommended changes, including a requirement that patients get their signatures notarized on applications for the medical marijuana registry," according to AP's report. Nevertheless, Colorado medical marijuana users no longer have to worry about, as HIV-positive patient Damien LaGoy's told the Denver Post, "find[ing] someone on Colfax or by the Civic Center and get[ting cannabis] off the street."

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