People under 21 could be banned from dispensaries

Filed under: Daily News |

Anyone under 21 could be barred from medical marijuana dispensaries under a proposed change to regulations being considered by state lawmakers.

Sen. Chris Romer, D-Denver, recommended the change Tuesday as the Senate held its first hearing on rules for medical marijuana dispensaries and growers that have cropped up around the state over the past year.

The Senate Local Government and Energy Committee took testimony on the under-21 ban and other changes, such as requiring dispensaries to pay licensing fees of between $10,000 and $35,000 depending on their size.

At the urging of cities and counties as well as larger dispensaries, lawmakers are trying to pass rules for the booming industry before the Legislature adjourns in two weeks. But patients and smaller dispensary owners argue that the rules would unfairly force many mom-and-pop operations to close.

Romer is concerned about teens getting access to recreational marijuana through people who have permission to use medical marijuana.

However, Kendra Cooper, a 19-year-old University of Colorado student, told lawmakers that the under-21 ban would make it difficult for her to get a steady supply of the medical marijuana she uses to treat her fibromyalgia, a pain ailment, and avoid the side effects of opiate medications.

Cooper would still be able to get some marijuana from the independent caregiver who grows pot for her, though she fears he wouldn’t always have enough supply. He also wouldn’t be able to provide the tinctures – liquid marijuana mixtures- and marijuana snacks that dispensaries sell, which she said are most helpful in relieving pain throughout her body.

Under the proposed rules, dispensaries would have to be licensed by both state and local governments to stay in business. Cities and counties could vote to ban dispensaries from opening within their boundaries.

Owners would have to pass criminal background checks, and anyone convicted of a felony drug crime would be barred from running a dispensary. The rules would even bar anyone who has failed to repay student loans from setting up shop.

Dispensaries would have to grow 70 percent of the marijuana they sell, a change aimed at making sure pot is being sold as medicine.

Romer also wants to bar anyone who hasn’t lived in Colorado for at least two years from opening a dispensary.

Walter Rayburn, who owns the Medical Oasis dispensary in Loveland, said he discounts the marijuana he sells and says the proposed fees would put him out of business.

“There are sick patients who need medicine, and they don’t need to pay high prices. They need to be seen by a person who takes an interest in them and not their wallet,” he said.

Romer believes about 80 percent of the estimated 1,000 dispensaries in the state would have to close as a result of the proposed regulations.

- Associated Press