So, here's the thing: if Let Us Vote COS' proposed ballot initiative to ban medical marijuana centers in Colorado Springs makes it on to the ballot, and passes, the group will probably wish it hadn't.
"Why?" asks the curious reader.
Because, dear friend: if you ban medical marijuana centers, you don't ban medical marijuana. So who distributes the medication? Caregivers. What regulations, stipulations and licensing actions do caregivers fall under?
Well, little to none. Certainly nothing similar to the heavy-handed structure that MMCs have recently been placed under in the wording of House Bill 1284.
And so agrees City Councilor Tom Gallagher, in a proposed opinion piece to the Independent and the Gazette, where he says, "While I applaud the [petition] effort, I cannot support the petitions subject matter for these reasons."
HB 10-1284 does not authorize any local regulation of “caregivers.” A “caregiver” is defined under HB-101284 as an individual legally authorized to obtain or grow marijuana for up to 5 patients that are registered with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPH&E).
Caregivers are only required to register with the CDPH&E for inclusion on the CONFIDENTIAL registry; they are not regulated by the Department of Revenue like MMC’s. Caregivers are not required to undergo background checks, collect andd remit sales tax. Caregivers are not subject to any local permitting process, nor are they subject to periodic inspections. Caregivers have a constitutionally guaranteed acceptation from Colorado’s criminal code and/or an affirmative defense against criminal prosecution by the state courts, and are legally entitled to recover damages (both compensatory and punitive) resulting from a criminal prosecution.
While HB 10-1284 requires MMC’s to operate exclusively within commercial and industrial zones, this prohibition does not extend to the caregiver. Caregivers are not subject to zoning laws, nor are they limited in their hours of operation, nor are they required to register with local law enforcement because HB 10-1284 does not grant this authority to local government.
Another insidious part of HB 10-1284 is the provision that allows care givers in communities that are deemed “underserved” (those communities that exercise the right to ban MMC’s) to apply to the CDPH&E (NOT the Department of Revenue) for a waiver that grants the care giver a legal right to grow for more than 5 patients (under certain conditions, significantly more than 5 patients).
Simply put, banning MMC’s will provide a mechanism that allows large growing and dispensing operations in residential neighborhoods while removing all regulatory oversight and enforcement from the Colorado Department of Revenue.