Vail Law: Here’s information about Colorado’s medical marijuana laws | VailDaily.com

Vail Law: Here’s information about Colorado’s medical marijuana laws

Rohn Robbins
Vail, CO, Colorado

You might have noticed a week ago Sunday that a crowd formed at the Colorado Department of Revenue in Denver. Those in that crowd had come to apply for the new state licenses for medical marijuana providers.

In all, 2059 forms were received: 717 from dispensaries, 271 from marijuana product makers, and 1,071 marijuana growers. Paying licensing fees as high as $16,000, and which averaged more than $3,400 per business, the state netted more than $7 million in fees. That ain’t just blowin’ smoke.

What all the fuss and frenzy were about was the new Colorado Medical Marijuana Regulations brought about by new legislation adopted by the 2010 legislature. Specifically, Senate Bill 109 and House Bill 1284 are now the law of the land.

The senate bill known as the “Doctor Bill,” reflects the legislature’s attempt to strengthen the doctor-patient relationship and assure that it is legitimate. The new law requires that a prescribing physician conduct a physical examination of all patients, but leaves unsaid precisely what the nature of that examination must be. In addition, the doctor is required to list the cause of the injury or source of the condition that gives rise to the recommendation for medical marijuana as appropriate.

The new law strives, too, to separate any potential financial relationship between doctors and the medical marijuana industry. No longer may doctors receive any compensation from any caregiver, dispensary or other medical marijuana provider. Neither may prescribing doctors make a diagnosis that medical marijuana is appropriate in any place where marijuana is sold or otherwise distributed, nor may they have a financial interest in any dispensary.

A new record-keeping system is also mandated under the new law. Doctors must now maintain specific records for all medical marijuana patients.

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New licenses, new rules

Of the two new laws, the house bill, known as the “Dispensary Bill,” is the broader. Under it, a new state licensing authority is created within the Department of Revenue. The new authority is authorized to grant, revoke, restrict or suspend licenses and to create new rules.

The new law also differentiates between three kinds of medical marijuana operations: medical marijuana centers (essentially, dispensaries), operational premise cultivation operations (grow facilities), and medical marijuana infused products manufacturing operations (edibles and other infused products). Specific rules apply to each of the three.

The new law gives wide latitude to local governments to determine how each wishes to deal with the burgeoning medical marijuana industry. Local governments may create or extend moratoria until state rule-making is completed. They may also pass ordinances banning medical marijuana sales or cultivation in its jurisdiction.

Under the new scheme, all dispensaries must certify that they are growing at least 70 percent of the medical marijuana necessary for their operations. Significantly, in light of the past questionable character of at least some dispensary owners, all owners, operators and employees must now secure a criminal background check and must do so before being authorized to work in a medical marijuana facility. Anyone with a prior felony drug conviction or any felony conviction in the last five years is barred.

Limits on owners

Limitations are imposed on those working or having an ownership interest in a medical marijuana facility. These limitations include that the person must be at least 21 years old, cannot be a licensed physician, cannot be tax debtor or have defaulted on a student loan, can’t be a law enforcement employee, or be of “bad character.”

A hotly-disputed provision of the new law is the requirement that all owners, operators and employees of a medical marijuana facility must have been a Colorado resident for at least two years.

The house bill also states that dispensaries are no longer “care-givers”. Instead, under the new law, patients are allowed to designate what are newly named as “centers” and, by so designating a center, that provider may grow up to six plants and two ounces of marijuana for each patient.

Medical marijuana facilities now have imposed upon them restrictions such that they may not be in a defined proximity to schools, alcohol or drug rehab centers, residential child care facilities, and other similar enterprises. The law does, however, allow for variances from these limits by local governing authorities.

The new law also dictates new labeling requirements, forbids on-site consumption, and imposes certain restrictions on the sale or transfer of medical marijuana facilities to new owners.

All in all, the new legislation is an earnest attempt to clean up an industry with a certain image problem and to make those in the medical marijuana business more accountable to regulation. In the main, the industry has welcomed these changes. What is certain is that as the industry continues to evolve, so will the laws intended to restrain it such that the will of the voters, when they adopted Amendment 20 which gave rise to legalizing medical marijuana in this state, is respected and enforced.

Rohn K. Robbins is an attorney licensed before the Bars of Colorado and California who practices in the Vail Valley. He may be heard on Wednesday nights at 7 p.m. on KZYR radio (97.7 FM), and seen on ECO TV 18 as host of “Community Focus.” Robbins may be reached at 970-926-4461 or at robbins@colorado.net.