Suthers opposes marijuana bill, advocates plan ballot measure

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Attorney General John Suthers is concerned that legislation regulating medical marijuana should not legalize medical dispensaries or clinics to distribute the drug to patients.

In a letter to the General Assembly, he said that he joins other law enforcement officials in “vehemently opposing” any legislation that embraces the clinic or dispensary model for distribution of medical marijuana.

Suthers said the amendment allows patients to grow and possess small amounts of marijuana for themselves, or to allow a primary caregiver to grow small amounts for them.

“For the first eight years, the patient/caregiver model worked reasonably well,” he said. “The medical marijuana registry reached about 1,600 patients. The health department reports patients did not complain about lack of access to medical marijuana.”

During the last year, things changed, Suthers said. A change in federal policy and the failure of the state board of health to implement a limit on patients led to an explosion in the medical marijuana industry.

“Dispensaries are claiming to be the primary caregiver for hundreds, and in some cases thousands, of patients,” he said. “At the rate of current applications, we will soon have 100,000 or more medical marijuana patients claiming to have a debilitating medical condition.”

The current bills being considered by committee this week, will result in “de facto legalization” of marijuana, Suthers said.

‘To embrace commercial dispensaries or clinics as a means of distributing marijana would go far beyond the intent of the voters,” eh said. “But voters rejuected legalization of the drug by a 60-40 margin in 2006.”

The legislation is grappling with the best way to manage medical marijuana and dispensaries. The current bill would require dispensaries get a state license and would limit the number of dispensary patients. It would also allow some counties to ban dispensaries completely.

Advocates of medical marijuana have filed a ballot initiative for the November election. It would bar lawmakers from limiting the number of patients a dispensary can serve, and would also stop cities and counties from passing a ban on the dispensaries. The group, Sensible Colorado, is collecting signatures for the ballot measure.