Marijuana dispensaries get reprieve

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Colorado lawmakers rejected a proposed ban on medical marijuana dispensaries as they seek ways to regulate the booming industry.

Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee killed a proposal Monday from Republican Sen. Scott Renfroe that would have asked voters to ban dispensaries and allow only individuals to provide medical marijuana to patients.

The decision came even though prosecutors and a doctor argued that dispensaries weren’t authorized by the medical marijuana law passed by voters 10 years ago and have given teens the impression that marijuana use is acceptable.

“This isn’t reefer madness. It’s pediatricians, it’s the National Institute of Health telling you this is a bad idea,” Adams County district attorney Don Quick said.

Patients said dispensaries were a natural outgrowth of the marijuana amendment and help them get the quality medicine they need.

Veteran Kevin Grimsinger, who lost both his legs in a landmine explosion in Afghanistan, said his electric bill shot up during the two years he grew his own medical marijuana, and he had trouble watering his plants in his wheelchair.

Sen. Linda Newell, D-Littleton, said she’s not sure the state should allow dispensaries, but she wants lawmakers to figure out a solution that ensures that people who are sick can still get the marijuana they need in the cheapest way possible.

The state revenue department said Colorado has an estimated 1,100 dispensaries that exist in a legal gray area. The shops weren’t specifically mentioned under Amendment 20 but have sprouted up in the last year after the Obama administration said it wouldn’t crack down on people following state medical marijuana laws.

Some dispensaries are lobbying for state regulations that could possibly give them protection from federal drug raids.

Cities and counties want the state to pass regulations that allow local government to ban dispensaries within their borders.

Under regulations backed by the state House and awaiting a vote in the Senate, areas that impose bans would still have to allow individual caregivers to provide marijuana for as many as five patients.

State prosecutors and Attorney General John Suthers, meanwhile, have been urging lawmakers not to regulate dispensaries, arguing that would legitimize an industry they don’t believe is legal.

However, Gov. Bill Ritter, a former prosecutor, is open to signing regulations with some conditions, spokeswoman Megan Castle said.

The governor wants rules to allow local bans, limit caregivers to five patients, ban onsite consumption of marijuana, and ban anyone convicted of a drug felony from owning a dispensary

An initial vote in the state Senate was expected Wednesday, a week before lawmakers must adjourn the session.

-Associated Press