"How many people have read through House Bill 1284? How many can explain it to me?"
Attorney Clifton Black isn't challenging the roughly 60 people at Penrose Library tonight. Instead, he's challenging the prudence of the 78-page medical marijuana bill he's holding in his hands.
"There's a lot of problems in here," he says.
As it turns out, neither Black himself nor fellow attorney Charles Houghton can explain all the ways HB 1284 would impact the dispensary (or medical marijuana center) owners, patients, advocates or others at this Monday gathering. But they do predict that bill sponsor Sen. Chris Romer, D-Denver, is right in saying it'll probably force 30 to 80 percent of the state's centers to close.
And they anticipate it will pass, which it does less than 24 hours later.
Some features of HB 1284:
• Medical marijuana centers can expect one-time state fees — depending on the number of patients — divided between dispensary, grow and infused product medication licenses, with undetermined annual fees to come later. Black says those one-time fees could run as high as $15,000.
• The infamous "70/30" rule. "The alliances that are going to have to be formed between the growers and the dispensary owners are going to be key," Houghton says. "A center has to grow 70 percent of the product it sells, and it can acquire the additional 30 percent, but only from another medical marijuana center." This means independent growers are essentially out of business.
• Those with drug-related felonies, or a criminal history indicative of a lack of good moral character, may not be licensed. This extends center-wide, meaning criminal histories of everyone from owner through employee must be clean to receive and keep a license.
• Financial interests in MMCs must be disclosed in the application, meaning no ghost investors.
• A $5,000 bond will be required. "And that's to make sure that [MMC owners] pay their taxes," Black says. "So you're already going to be treated like a criminal — you have to post bond to prove that you pay your taxes."
• The Department of Revenue's "auditors with guns," as Romer's called them, will pay regular visits, looking at plant numbers, previous harvests, expected harvests, patient counts and more.
Additionally, a statewide one-year moratorium on new MMCs will be in effect from July 1, 2010 through July 1, 2011.
Currently operating centers will have until July 1 to become compliant — to submit building drawings, have a storefront, complete background checks, etc. They'll have until Aug. 1 to pay all licensing fees, and until Sept. 1 to prove that 70 percent of all medication is grown in-house.
After having heard the rundown on Monday night, David Schiller of All Good Care Center remains skeptical.
"I think there's going to be a lot of people making funny bed partners," he says. "From that, there's going to be a lot of problems."
Lawsuits are imminent to prevent several parts from being enacted — for instance, the mandate for state fees and the option for local governments to ban MMCs.
"There's a hundred million 'gotchas' in this thing along the way," Houghton says. "Just when you think you've got something figured out, you read an additional five pages and something else pops up."