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New bill would let cities ban medical marijuana centers

10:20 PM, Feb 3, 2010   |    comments
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The bill, sponsored in part by Senator Chris Romer (D-Denver) and Rep. Tom Massey (R-Poncha Springs), would, among other things, put in place a "time-out" for new dispensaries statewide until July 1, 2011.

"This establishes a set of ground rules," Romer explained on Wednesday afternoon.

Brian Vicente, with Sensible Colorado, does not agree with some of those ground rules.

"There are some pretty serious issues we look forward to addressing with the legislature." Vicente said.

While the bill is lengthy, 45 pages in all, it would primarily seek to change the way dispensaries operate in the state in the future. In addition to the "time-out," the bill would require most dispensaries to become nonprofits licensed with the state, making them what Romer called health centers. Cities would also be able to ban "marijuana health centers" outright.

"That's very concerning to us because we don't want a cancer patient in Aurora, for instance, to get on the bus to Denver to get their medicine," Vicente said.

It would also require the so-called health centers to grow the vast majority of its own marijuana, either on or offsite.

The bill comes on the heels of the state senate's passage of SB 109. That bill defines what a doctor can and cannot do while writing recommendations for medical marijuana.

There are close to 20,000 people in the state who currently hold medical marijuana cards and at least that many who have applied with the state. In fact, two weeks ago on one day the Colorado Department of Health received more than 1,800 applications.

The latest bill would not limit the number of patients a "health center" could work with, something that had been feared during earlier discussions of the bill. If a caregiver chooses to not get licensed however, he or she would be limited to providing marijuana for a maximum of five patients.

If lawmakers do not drop some of the proposed regulations, Vicente says he will bring the issue to the voters.

"Patients need to know if the legislature does not act in their best interest then the people are going to take this into their own hands, and we're going to vote on this in November," Vicente said.

On Thursday, Vicente is filing a statewide ballot initiative.

If the two sides can't come to an agreement, Sensible Colorado would need to get 75,000 signatures by mid-July to get the issue on the November ballot.

Romer says he is open to discussing the bill with the medical marijuana community as well as law enforcement.

(KUSA-TV © 2010 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)

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