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Senate gives initial OK to medical marijuana bill

6:30 PM, Jan 29, 2010   |    comments
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The measure, Senate Bill 109, bars doctors from writing recommendations inside dispensaries that sell medical marijuana. It requires that doctors review a person's medical history and give them a full exam before recommending that they become a legal user of medical marijuana. Those between 18 and 21 would have to get the approval of two doctors, which is already required for patients under 18.

The original bill also required patients to go for follow up visits so doctors could assess whether marijuana was effective in treating them, but senators voted to remove that requirement.

Patients whose regular doctors can't recommend medical marijuana, including those who rely on the Veterans Administration and federally funded clinics, complained that requiring follow up visits would have required them to spend hundreds of extra dollars they couldn't afford.

Co-sponsor Sen. Chris Romer, D-Denver, said lawmakers may have to revisit that change when the bill comes up for a final vote next week to make sure it's still tough enough to prevent fraud. He and Sen. Nancy Spence, R-Centennial, said it was a good first step in regulating the state's booming medical marijuana industry.

Another bill to create more oversight for the hundreds of dispensaries that have opened up in Colorado, most of them in the last year, is set to be introduced next week.

"This is a good down payment on the solution," Romer said of the doctor bill.

The number of people getting medical marijuana cards has been growing rapidly since last year after the Obama administration announced it wouldn't target medical marijuana use in states where it is legal. Dispensaries have also been popping up around Colorado since then and lawmakers fear some are working too closely with doctors to allow recreational users to become legal medical marijuana users.

About 17,000 people have already received their medical marijuana cards from the state but another 20,000 or so have applied and are waiting for approval. The last official monthly account is from October, when 4,751 people got cards, more than the total number of cards issued in all of 2008.

(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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