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Medical marijuana advocates rally for growing rights on 4/20



Inexplicable comma didn't make the protesters' message any less clear. - NAT STEIN
  • Nat Stein
  • Inexplicable comma didn't make the protesters' message any less clear.

In addition to all the consumption-oriented festivities that went down on April 20, a march on City Hall brought a small but mighty crowd of medical marijuana supporters out to vent some frustrations. Their message? Leave our plants alone.

Amendment 20 may have legalized medical marijuana back in 2000, but patients now feel their rights are under attack. That attack comes in the form of a proposed ordinance to limit all residences in the Springs to 12 marijuana plants total, period, no matter how many adults, patients or caregivers live there.

Around 30 diehards turned out to voice their discontent on Council's turf.

Notable among the crowd of patients, their family members and supporters were two candidates for City Council — Joseph Carlson and Hemp Hurd — both of whom intend to make cannabis a central part of their campaign.

Carlson's take on the matter: "I say leave it alone, let them grow. We should be focusing on the rapists, the murderers — not the patients."

Federal and local law enforcement have both raised concerns about so-called "home invasions," which is when out-of-staters move into Colorado's legal marijuana haven, grow a ton of plants in a residential home then ship it to thirstier markets throughout the country. Fear of that kind of criminal activity is what's driving plant count limits here in the Springs and in municipalities around the state.

Legitimate medical marijuana users, like 47-year-old Tammie Bruner, worry about shouldering the consequences of a few bad actors. She moved here in September from Kentucky to get better access to the one medicine that works against her seizures: cannabis.

"I was shocked to come here and find out they were still coming after my medicine," she told the Independent.

If she can't grow all her plants at home she'll have to make up the difference at a dispensary. And that, Bruner says, is an expensive prospect.

"It costs like $45 a gram and that only lasts me two days if I'm really careful. It takes a lot [of cannabis] to control my seizures. And that's the only reason I have my life back," she says. "I don't want to become a criminal again, I just want to be healthy and happy."

Pamela Bailey, who suffers from a chronic illness, is also wary. "They're trying to force us back to dispensaries," she said, pointing out the only task force members with ties to the marijuana community were two dispensary owners, not patients or caregivers.

The plant-count ordinance will have its first reading in front of Council at Tuesday's regular meeting (after press time.) According to Council administrator Eileen Gonzalez, several marijuana-related ordinances are scheduled for vote on May 10, which means they would take effect two days prior to the expiration of the moratorium on May 25th.

Speaking of the moratorium's approaching death, councilor Larry Bagley wants a resuscitation. At Tuesday's meeting he'll propose extending the current freeze on medical marijuana licensing for another year. During that time, another task force would convene to study some unresolved issues like non-residential caregiver grows, marijuana advertising, co-location (read: Gas and Grass), 4/20-friendly Air BnB-style rentals, odor and energy use.

Notably, the new task force might run a little differently than the first. Included in Bagley's proposal is the recommendation that members not be Council-appointed and that patients, caregivers, physicians and industry experts actually be included this time around.

Meanwhile, medical marijuana advocates are hurriedly and aggressively organizing more opposition to the plant limit proposal.

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