Colorado health department holds hearing on pot rules
June 15, 2011
DENVER – Proposed new rules requiring medical marijuana caregivers to be more involved in their patients’ lives would drive some providers out of a business, opponents say.
The regulations approved Wednesday by the Colorado Board of Health would not affect dispensaries but only people known as “caregivers,” who provide marijuana to five patients or fewer. They would require caregivers to help patients with day-to-day activities such as cooking, shopping or driving to appointments.
Caregivers would have to perform these duties to keep their legal protections to provide pot. Dispensaries, which provide marijuana to many more patients, must follow a long list of other state regulations.
Board members said the new requirements are necessary because under state law, caregivers are required to provide “significant” help to medical marijuana patients, and courts have ruled that means more than just providing patients with marijuana. The board rejected a recommendation from an advisory committee earlier this year that providing education and consultation would fulfill the requirements.
The state constitution defines a caregiver as an adult who “has significant responsibility for managing the well-being of a patient who has a debilitating medical condition.”
The state health board tried to clarify the rules by defining “significant responsibility” as simply supplying marijuana. But in 2009, the Colorado Court of Appeals ruled that medical marijuana caregivers must have personal contact with clients and do more than just provide them with marijuana.
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Jason Lauve told the board the new regulations could force him to find a new caregiver because his caregiver is overwhelmed with the increasing requirements by state government.
“I honestly feel that this is putting my care in jeopardy,” he said.
Lauve said he also objects to the increasing role of law enforcement in regulating medical marijuana, which was approved by Colorado voters in 2000.
State lawmakers passed legislation this year that requires caretakers – people who grow pot for a small number of patients – to register with the state.
“I’m very concerned that law enforcement is getting involved in my health care at this point,” he said.
Jerry Peters of the North Metro Drug Task Force told the board the law is being abused by caregivers and police support the new rules. He said it’s difficult to separate caregivers from drug dealers.
Colorado Springs caretaker Michael Marcella says caregivers are worried because of threats by the federal government to crack down on the industry, including caregivers and officials administering state-sanctioned medical marijuana programs.
Colorado’s top federal prosecutor, John Walsh, has warned that state employees who administer marijuana regulations could risk federal prosecution. The letter was similar to ones sent by federal prosecutors in other medical marijuana states.
Marcella said the regulations also would cause upheaval in Colorado’s caregiver community because most disabled patients have other people in their lives who can help them cook or clean.
He said many caregivers are considering not renewing their licenses because the regulations are becoming more stringent.