UPDATE: Medical marijuana at the half-way point

Colorado Capitol in Denver

We’re into March and more than half-way through the 2015 Legislative Session. It’s been a busy session already, and from this point forward, things speed up. Here’s what Cannabis Patients Alliance has been working on so far this year.

Training for Citizen Lobbyists
On January 24, in preparation for Patients Day, CPA hosted a panel of awesome experts on effective lobbying for citizens and volunteers. We got such good feedback, we hope to host this training again soon. Thank you Samantha Walsh, Sen. Evie Hudak, Rep. Faith Winter and Wendy Turner for being excellent panelists!

Cannabis Patients Day at the Capitol
Over 150 patients and supporters showed up at the Capitol on January 27, 2015. Rather than being limited to 2 or 3 minutes at the microphone during a hearing, this was an opportunity to put a face to what it means to be a medical marijuana patient in Colorado and discuss issues they face every day with their elected representatives. Thank you to all our supporters who made this day possible!

See photos and more at We Threw a Party for Cannabis Patients at the Capitol.

Pregnancy Warning Bill HB15-1036 (defeated)
We opposed this bill which would mandate posting of warning signs and prohibit dispensary staff from recommending marijuana to pregnant women. It was withdrawn by the sponsor but may come up again this session in a different form.

Felony DUI HB15-1043
In Colorado, DUI now includes THC with a blood limit of 5 nano grams. Medical marijuana patients are most vulnerable because they’re likely to be over 5 ng with no impairment. However, their condition may make it difficult to pass a roadside test, especially if they have pain, tremors or spasms. With NHTSA admitting there is no relationship between blood levels and impairment, penalizing these people with a felony based on an arbitrary limit is unfair and bad public policy. The primary concern in testimony was about alcohol. We advocate for excluding THC from the felony DUI.

For more on this, please read Medical Marijuana Patients and the Felony DUI.

Asset Forfeiture Reform SB15-006 (defeated)
Thank you Sen. Woods! A bill to place restrictions on Colorado law enforcement’s participation in the federal government’s (particularly the DEA) equitable sharing program was introduced this session. We, along with the Drug Policy Alliance and several civil rights groups, strongly supported this bill. It was defeated in committee, but we hope to see it come up again next year.

Medical Marijuana Sunset Review SB15-115
Cannabis Patients Alliance spoke with the Department of Regulatory Agencies (DORA) during the review process. We were disappointed that the report focused primarily on industry issues and said little about problems or concerns directly affecting patients. The resulting bill reflects that. As it’s already passed the Senate, we’re hoping for beneficial amendments in the House.

Caregiver Bill SB15-014
This has been a very difficult challenge. This bill came out of an interim committee on retail marijuana taxes, a must-pass bill designed to reign in caregivers (the presumed source of diversion) and patients (using medical marijuana to avoid paying taxes). When the sponsor, Sen. Irene Aguilar, reached out to us to help her better understand the relationship between patients and caregivers, we were happy to have that conversation.

Although there are things we like in the bill, there is still much that gives us concern. The bill passed it’s first committee unanimously with support from law enforcement, the industry, the governor’s office, the CDPHE and various other entities. It’s waiting to be heard by the Senate Appropriations Committee. We continue to voice our objections and advocate for beneficial amendments.

For more about this bill, please read The Evolution of the Caregiver Bill and The Caregiver Bill: Too Much Opportunity for Abuse.

Medical Marijuana on Probation Bill HB15-1267
Finally! Thank you Rep. Joe Salazar! A bill we can fully support! This issue first came up during the DUI hearings in 2012 and 2013. Currently, those on probation are required to remain “lawful.” Some judges include federal law in their assessment of this requirement. This bill would allow those using marijuana medicinally to continue even while on probation. It will have it’s first hearing in the House on Thursday, March 26.

Testing HB15-1283
Another bill we support! Thanks Rep. Steve Lebsock! This has been a much harder endeavor than we anticipated. When the prospect of testing came up, industry representatives and lobbyists strongly objected. They said test results were unreliable because the labs were a mess. So we figured if that was the reason, all we had to do was figure out where the problems were and fix them so patients could get access to testing. We got involved and ended up opening a big can of worms. The objections to giving patients and caregivers access to the licensed testing labs are coming from all directions: MED/DOR, CDPHE, law enforcement, industry, even the governor’s office. This one’s a very heavy lift. We really need you to support this bill that gives registered patients and caregivers access to reliable testing.

Concentrates Bill (yet to be introduced)
In addition to criminalizing home BHO production, the proposed draft of the bill included restrictions on the use of alcohol for concentrate production. We advocated to have alcohol removed from the bill because this is a primary method used by patients and the relative danger to public safety is minimal. The revised draft of the bill still includes felony charges for open blasting, which we continue to oppose, but it excludes alcohol in the ban.

For more about this issue, please go to The Importance of Marijuana Concentrate Production for Patients.

Medical Marijuana Use in School
Another very complicated issue. When we heard about a middle school boy in Jefferson County who was thrown out of school for using medical marijuana, we immediately brought it to the attention of his elected representatives: Senator Andy Kerr and Rep. Max Tyler. We continue to look for a legislative fix for this issue so our kids can go to school without interference.

What else?
We’re continuing to monitor other medical marijuana-related bills as well as activities at the local level.

We can’t do this without you!
The session’s not over. There’s so much more work to be done. We can’t do it without your support. Please make a generous donation (not tax-deductible) to Cannabis Patients Alliance so we can continue working for safe, legal and affordable access to  medical marijuana for patients in whatever way works best for them.

Patients choose. Corner to corner.

Categories: Advocacy, Business & Industry, Children, Teens & Youth, Colorado, Law Enforcement, Patients, Policy & Politics, War on Drugs

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