Medical pot user: Plenty of smoke signals in Aspen |

Medical pot user: Plenty of smoke signals in Aspen

John Colson
Aspen, CO Colorado
Aspen TimesMatthew Franzen

ASPEN, Colorado ” One of Aspen’s medical marijuana patients said Wednesday that he is hopeful there is sufficient demand in town to warrant the opening of a medical marijuana dispensary.

“It’s questionable,” mused Matthew Franzen, 47, who has been getting medical marijuana for a year based on a doctor’s prescription for pain management, resulting from a ski injury in 2003.

Perhaps as many as 30 people were handed doctor’s prescriptions for medical marijuana at an April 12 rally and registration clinic held in Aspen by the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, Franzen said. The prescriptions enable them to sign up for the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment registry.

And the next step after that is to get the certificate from that agency, and find a way to obtain the drug after a doctor has agreed it will relieve a patient’s symptoms for a variety of ailments, Franzen said.

“I think it would be an incentive for more people to get their certificates if a dispensary opened here,” Franzen concluded after a moment’s thought.

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An Aspen attorney, Lauren Maytin, who said she serves on the board for NORML and who Franzen said has represented him and other medical marijuana patients in dealing with local law enforcement, has been exploring the possibility of getting a dispensary opened in Aspen. She said she is representing an unidentified group of locals as she makes the rounds to local government agencies and offices, doing the leg work for her clients.

So far, she said, the reception has been positive. Sheriff Bob Braudis, Police Chief Richard Pryor and city attorney John Worcester all told The Aspen Times they could see no legal roadblocks to prevent a dispensary from opening, although both Pryor and Worcester said they needed to look into the matter further.

Franzen recently was arrested on possession charges after he left his backpack at a local retail shop and the shopkeeper turned it into the police, who then found his small stash of pot. The police ultimately had to return it to Franzen, after confirming his legitimate status as a card-carrying medical marijuana user.

He said in an interview that he first came across the medicinal properties of marijuana in the 1990s, when he started growing it for his father to help relieve his father’s cancer symptoms, and it helped.

“He was able to be on chemo[therapy], and eat, and relax from a lot of his symptoms,” Franzen reported. “He was able to function normally.”

Franzen was soon busted for growing, and received a deferred judgment and sentence from a judge, although he claims, “I wasn’t using marijuana at the time.”

These days, although he is homeless, he said he works as a freelance arborist and has worked as a backcountry ski guide in the past.

As to whether a dispensary would be a worthwhile addition to Aspen’s retail scene, Franzen said, “Most definitely. Aspen has a huge problem with alcohol, and I think that marijuana is a medicine that can be used to get people off alcohol. People are going to medicate themselves for whatever their problems are.”

Colorado’s voters in 2000 passed Amendment 20 to the state constitution, which authorizes individuals to use pot “to lessen the debilitating symptoms of a number of serious medical illnesses,” according to the website,

Prior to that, pot was classified as a controlled substance and those who possessed it, sold it and smoked it were subject to arrest.

The medical marijuana law, however, permits an authorized patient to possess up to two ounces of “a usable form of marijuana” or “no more than six marijuana plants, with three or fewer being mature, flowering plants that are producing a usable form of marijuana,” according to the amendment.

The law also allows for dispensaries, under the general classification of “caregiver,” and there are several operating around Colorado, including on the Western Slope, Maytin said.

According to an April 10 article in the Fort Collins Coloradan, a dispensary called Nature’s Medicine recently opened in Loveland, operated by Rich Present, 37, and Drew McNeil, 33. The article described “a locked room where state-registered patients may purchase marijuana in a variety of forms, including budding plants, baked goods and liquid form.”

Present also was quoted as hoping to form a cooperative of legal marijuana growers as a way of driving down the prices for medical marijuana users. He told the Coloradan that he will be selling ounces for between $250 and $300, and one-eighth of an ounce for $50, plus sales tax.

The article reported that the operators of the dispensary were listed with the CDPHE as caregivers for some 20 medical marijuana patients before opening the doors of their new business.

Currently there are eight patients listed for Pitkin County on the state’s medical marijuana registry, far behind such counties as Denver (743), Jefferson (679), El Paso (665), Boulder (560), according to the CDPHE website. While 62 of the state counties have registered applicants for certificates, the website reports, 49 percent of patients live in the Denver-metro and Boulder area, with the remainder scattered throughout the state.

The website also states that more than 600 physicians in the state have signed prescriptions for medical marijuana patients in Colorado.

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