Media coverage of Colorado’s quasi-legalization has led to the impression that its citizens have safe, affordable access everywhere in the state. Sensationalist stories about funding schools, scholarships, and homeless aid programs have made international news. What isn’t told are the stories of patients still being persecuted, prohibition seeping back into legislation, and that reality is a very different picture. Here is the story, straight from the front lines of the Front Range.
Medical was voted in around 2001. For 11 years, Colorado had a functioning, and relatively acceptable medical marijuana program. Patients had the option of growing doctor recommended plant counts, dispensaries developed a system, and most patients had what they needed. In 2012, Colorado celebrated a victory with the passage of A64, their recreational marijuana ballot initiative. This changed everything. I am absolutely for descheduling of cannabis, and know that cannabis can serve as a safe recreational alternative. However, legalizing recreational changed the face of everything medical from the industry to the legislation. Washington and Oregon have also faced these same challenges, and quietly restricted their programs as well. This change is why patients are once again, on the steps of the State Capitol and in their city’s streets.
Colorado now faces the threat of a prohibition reintroduction. Four years of legalization has had some speed bumps, and propaganda campaigns have fueled a lot of unrest from non-cannabis users. All along I-25 in places like Pueblo, Boulder, Denver, and Colorado Spring, Amendment 20 has come under fire. The strategy is a slow and steady chipping away at the state amendments. It has gone virtually unnoticed. What the news doesn’t tell you is that Colorado is a Home Rule state. Local municipalities can change what they don’t approve of (or they claim will be harmful to their city), and even opt-out of some state legislation. Most of the local municipalities in Colorado have latched on to that and attacked every part of A-20 they could. Home grow rights have been virtually wiped out along the I-25 corridor, because of a problem that has been grotesquely exaggerated by City Officials and Law Enforcement. In Colorado Springs, the DEA presented an extremely passionate doomsday scenario to City Council. The agent presenting (Tim Scott), was almost yelling and looked as if he could stroke out at any point. His face was red, voice elevated, and you could even hear the huffing and puffing on the video. Check it out here at time marker 5:12:25. When all was said and done, they cited 186 homes that were being looked at for out of state trafficking. 186. In Colorado Springs, there are over 185,000 homes. The 5th grade math tells me that 186 homes out of over 185,000 results in 1/10 of 1% of a problem. Even if the statistics given were quadrupled like Mr. Scott claimed, that still is less than half a percent. So half of one percent gets medicine taken away, Colorado panics and calls in the DEA to prosecute you, and even more restrictive regulations (that only affect patients – not the intended illegal grows) get put into place. It is Reefer Madness all over again, and happening throughout Colorado.
On a state level, medical cannabis and patients are being attacked as well. While there was a huge victory with Jack’s Bill (SB-1373), prohibition measures are starting to get more and more support. This year there was a bill introduced to restrict potency that lost by one vote on a technicality. This bill is now being funded by the Anschtuz family and will be reintroduced for the November ballot. This bill would limit the potency allowed on all recreational sales, so all concentrates, most edibles, and a large amount of flower would be completely banned. While that doesn’t necessarily affect medical directly, Jason Cranford reported on Facebook that the Marijuana Enforcement Division (MED) is already starting to put pressure on Denver medical dispensaries to become recreational. In Colorado Springs, Tom Scudder of A Wellness dispensary and a member of the Medical Marijuana Task Force said he would be in favor of reducing the number medical dispensaries in half. There is speculation that the state is phasing out medical for the profits of recreational. Sadly, a large portion of the cannabis industry is actually lobbying to make these changes happen. A recreational world would boost their bottom lines, and they all feel they will survive the battle over the monopoly. Other than their own financial interests, none of the industry leaders seem to be involved with helping protect the eroding patient rights.
Slowly, patients are starting to see what is going on, but not quick enough. In Colorado Springs, several advocacy groups are working to preserve the basic patient rights, American Medical Refugees, CannAbility, and Cannabis Patient Right Coalition have all been speaking out against these infractions and been trying to unite the patient community. Petitions like this one are starting to circulate around the internet, patients are starting to protest, and the community is coming together. We need your help though. A federal deschedule and consistent citizen involvement are the only things that will ever stop these types of onslaughts. Be sure you are registered to vote, you are actively involved with emailing your elected officials (on all relevant issues, not just cannabis), and join the movement to take back our country.