HB1220: Cracking down on the gray market

I really haven’t had a chance to write about the biggest challenge to medical marijuana patients’ rights we’ve seen here in Colorado: HB17-1220. I’ve been too busy working on the bill to write about it. This bill would set a limit on all cultivation in residential areas to 12 plants, without exception for patients or caregivers. It also creates new criminal penalties for noncompliance, among other things.

With just a matter of days between when the bill was introduced and it’s first hearing in the House, we scrambled to get people engaged. And people showed up! They came to the hearing, sent emails and made phone calls, all to pressure the legislature to engage with patients on this issue.

It worked! With support from other patient organizations, we’ve been in negotiations, trying to get consideration for patients and the people who care for them. We’ve already made progress, but we’re not there yet. There’s still work to be done.

Please read this statement and update from the core patient groups working on this issue:

We would like to take the opportunity to thank the community for all of their support and the noise you have made on HB 1220.  We are making progress.  Without your outreach and your efforts to make the patient voice heard, we would not have any room to try negotiate better policy on this bill at all.  Thank you!  As amended in the House, we now have a statewide definition of a plant, which removes seeds, stems and clones from the equation.  Thanks to work of our friends in the House of Representatives we have also removed the problematic affirmative defense language and inserted a misdemeanor for a first time offense in lieu of a felony charge.

We still have much work to do.  The bill is exactly half way through the legislative process and it will pass.  We still have a number of concerns in its current form that it opens the door for the state to criminalize legitimate patients and caregivers who are currently operating under the confines of all state and local laws.  As written this bill sweeps law abiding citizens, many whom are medically fragile with debilitating conditions, in with the cartel and those who choose to engage in black market activity.

What now?

To that end, we are asking for a narrow carve out for legitimate patients and caregivers wishing to cultivate at home for up to 36 plants.  While we would so much prefer 99, that is more than a majority of the legislature will allow in a residential area.    Based on data from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment we believe 36 plants will cover over 90% of patients on the extended plant count registry.  It is important to note that this does not change the number of plants your doctor can recommend out of medical necessity, it changes the number of plants that can be grown in a single residence. While this is not an easy decision to make, this bill is going to pass and we hope to save as many as we can.

Our proposed amendment would create an exemption from the penalties of HB 1220 for legal patients and caregivers to cultivate up to 36 plants in a residential lot.  In order to be able to qualify for the exemption the patient or caregiver would have to:

  • Register with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s confidential Patient and Caregiver Registry.
  • Provide notice to the local jurisdiction if notice is required and submit to reasonable inspections if required.  This would be determined via a public process at the local level.

We are working furiously to ensure that if such inspections are required by the applicable local government that they are subject to guard rails in state law concerning privacy,  confidentiality, and when inspections can occur.  This patient carve out would exempt existing jurisdictions that are already more restrictive (i.e. Colorado Springs and Douglas County).  We believe this amendment will offer patients wishing to grow at home the opportunity to do so in a ‘regulated’ manner that creates a bright line for law enforcement to use their resources on those who engage in black market activity instead of law abiding citizens who cultivate their medicine at home.  While this is not what we would choose if we were writing this legislation and had a magic wand to make it happen the way we want it to look, the reality is we don’t.  We have been working nonstop to slow this train down and do the best we can to build in as many patient and caregiver protections as possible into the bill.   Our unified goal is to protect as much access to whole plant medicine as we can while wait for the rest of the world to catch up with us in understanding this is their future medicine too.  If we are not successful in this endeavor we will be left with the bill in its current form – or worse.  We now have a path to achieving this goal and we will need your help to get there.

Next Steps:

From a point of legislative process, the HB 1220 is now awaiting introduction in the Senate.  As soon as the bill has been introduced and assigned to a committee we will update you again with grass roots contact information for the Committee of Reference.  Our ask is going to be to support this amendment to carve out patients and caregivers.  Your stories and individual experiences help validate the work we are doing to educate policy makers on why extended plant counts are necessary.  We are in the process of getting the language drafted by the legislative staff attorneys for our review and by attorneys and experts who are supporting our cause.  We are working to get as many stakeholders on board and supporting our efforts as possible to position us for success in the Senate.  Your ongoing support and engagement is critical for our success.  We hope to have an update and a call to action out to you by week’s end.  If you wish to do something in the meantime you can contact YOUR State Senator now and ask them to support the patient groups efforts to carve out patients and caregivers from HB 1220.  If you don’t know your State Senator you can find them at:

http://www.leg.colorado.gov/find-my-legislator

Thank you for your support,

Cannabis Patients Alliance
Veterans for Natural Rights
Cannabis Patients Rights Coalition
CannAbility Foundation

You can read the current version of the bill at the General Assembly web site.



Categories: ACTION!, Advocacy, Caregivers, Colorado, Law Enforcement, Patients, Policy & Politics, War on Drugs

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