HB1220: Why negotiate?

HB1220 was introduced with a whole lot of momentum behind it. The bill was considered by the Interim Committee on Cost-benefit Analysis of Legalized Marijuana, but they elected not to move it forward as a group. That didn’t stop the people who wanted this. They continued working the issue for months.

We knew there was something coming, but didn’t know exactly what. The governor has been signalling this move in the media for months, if not years. We heard mentions of twelve plants, felonies, and grants for law enforcement. There were talking points that we never saw. Although we asked several times, as did legislators, we never saw a draft of the bill before it was introduced. All we could do was plead with them not to do this. We were ignored.

Patients didn’t ask for this. It was forced on us, and we had to respond.

We’ve always argued that people should be allowed to grow whatever is medically necessary as allowed under the Colorado Constitution. As soon as I read this bill, I realized that they think they’ve found a way around the constitution by applying these restrictions to residential growing only while allowing it in other areas. We heard it on the House floor: You can still grow your full plant count in a nonresidential area like industrial, agriculture or commercial. That’s their work-around.

Before the bill was ever introduced, it was reviewed by the Attorney General’s office and Legislative Legal Services. These legal advisers to the legislature are consulted when constitutional questions come up. They’re telling the legislature that it does not violate the constitution and that they can defend that position in court if it’s challenged. And it will be challenged.

Ultimately, constitutional questions aren’t decided by the legislature. They’re decided in the courts, either through a precedent setting criminal case or a direct constitutional challenge. You can scream and yell “I have rights,” but other people are claiming that they have rights too. Whose rights supersede whose is a decision for the courts.

When these cases do go to court, there’s no guarantee that our side will win. Yes, sometimes we do, as in the Jason Lauve case in Boulder. But sometimes we don’t, as happened with the Brandon Coats case against Dish Network.

In the Bob Crouse case, law enforcement decided to use it as an opportunity to challenge the requirement that they care for and return marijuana property if they lose the case; something they’ve been bitching about for years. Law enforcement won that challenge, and the marijuana community suffered a huge loss in the process. The Colorado Supreme Court decided that cops don’t have to return confiscated marijuana because it requires them to violate federal law even though it’s required under Colorado law. So now they can come in and destroy whatever plants you may be cultivating because there is no longer a requirement for them to do otherwise.

When we started hearing grumblings about a bill on home grows, we reached out to our contacts with the legislature, trying to get a feel for what was going on. We wanted to know where it was coming from, who was supporting it, and how legislators were feeling about it.

We were amazed at the energy behind this effort! It was a reaction by the state to pressure from federal, state and local governments to “do something!” The bill was being pushed by the governor’s office, with full support from the Attorney General, district attorneys, police chiefs and sheriffs, cities and counties, realtors and home owners associations, neighborhoods and private citizens.

When these kinds of bills come down, you have some choices to make. You can stand back and do nothing and let the chips fall where they may. You can try to kill the bill entirely, which is risky if you fail because you’re stuck with whatever they come up with. If you do kill it but they want it bad enough, the bill might get reintroduced later in the session when you’ll have to fight it all over again, as happened with the DUID bills. Or you can try to negotiate a deal, all the while knowing that if negotiations break down, you may have to throw everything into killing it. But even when you’re trying to kill a bill, you’re still planting seeds for friendly amendments in case it passes.

So we negotiated. Working with other patient groups like Veterans for Natural Rights, CannAbility, CPRC of Colorado, and the governor’s office, we were able to “soften” the bill so as to protect as many patients as we can from unnecessary intrusion. We pulled in support from the Drug Policy Alliance, the Criminal Defense Bar and the ACLU to help address issues around extended plant counts, criminal penalties, inspections, confidentiality, and defining a “plant.” In the process, we were able to bring up other concerns we’ve had for years.

With the passage of Amendment 64, legalization of cannabis was pushed into a tax and regulate model. That put additional pressure on medical use. You may not like that model, but a whole lot of other Coloradans who voted for it did, and that’s what we’re stuck with. If you thought that A64 wouldn’t affect medical, you were naive. If you thought either A64 or A20 gave you the ability to grow as much as you want and sell it to whomever you want, you were mistaken.

Here’s the reality check. We have to navigate this road together. Patients aren’t the only ones with a seat at the table, but at least we’re fighting to have a seat. We won’t be able to protect everyone, but we’ll try to protect as many as we can. We won’t get everything we want because nobody does. Ultimately, the constitutionality of these laws will be decided in court, and I welcome that challenge.

Nothing about us without us!

— Rx MaryJane (Teri Robnett)


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Categories: Advocacy, Caregivers, Colorado, Law Enforcement, Local Communities, Patients, Policy & Politics, War on Drugs

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3 replies

  1. You stated in your comment you were able to “soften” the bill. Please explain how you “softened” the bill.

    Like

    • Definition of a plant that does NOT include seeds, clippings, clones and seedlings. We had to negotiate down the size to 4 inches, or accept a limit on the number a person could have. This new definition is HUGE when it comes to marijuana prosecutions, not just for patients, but for EVERYBODY!

      Criminal penalties in this bill are now a petty offense, then a misdemeanor, then a felony. No more instant felon. These are lower than the penalties for illegal cultivation now.

      No random inspections for compliance. Another HUGE accomplishment that makes it safer for everyone.

      Higher level of confidentiality of the patient registry. It now has stiffer penalties for breaching confidentiality, which is another thing we’ve wanted for years. The penalties in A20 are weak.

      The limit in RESIDENTIAL neighborhoods will be 12 plants, but there’s a carve-out for patients and caregivers of up to 24 plants, with NO home inspections. If you need more than 24, you can still grow your full plant count someplace other than a residence. We wanted 99 plants, tried for 36, but had to drop to 24 if we wanted to get home inspections out. That was the negotiating point.

      Counties and cities can go with the state’s limit, or set their own limits, and they can grant variances to individuals. They don’t have to abide by the state’s limit, which gives us room to work for more reasonable regulations at the local level like we did in Longmont.

      Affirmative defense is still intact. But if you stay within this framework, you can’t be charged or prosecuted in the first place.

      HB1220: This is the bill as it came out of the House.
      http://leg.colorado.gov/sites/default/files/documents/2017A/bills/2017A_1220_ren.pdf

      These are the amendments that were adopted by the Senate Judiciary Committee.
      https://cannapan.files.wordpress.com/2017/03/hb1220_l-025.pdf
      https://cannapan.files.wordpress.com/2017/03/hb1220_l-026.pdf
      https://cannapan.files.wordpress.com/2017/03/hb1220_l-027.pdf
      https://cannapan.files.wordpress.com/2017/03/hb1220_l-028.pdf

      Like

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