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Medical marijuna under fire

It‘s been over 9 years since the people of Colorado voted to legalize marijuana for medical use, but the full effects of this change have only recently been noticed in the day-to-day life of most residents. The change is due in part to an announcement by the Obama administration to make such use a low priority for federal drug enforcement, a departure from the previous administration’s policy of raiding and prosecuting clinics and users in states where voters had approved similar measures.

According to the Denver Attorney General, there are currently 194 medial marijuana dispensaries that have obtained sales licenses within the city limits. This boom is evident to anyone who has picked up the local Westword weekly lately and found that the pages upon pages of advertising for these clinics and related services (security, growers’ seminars, suppliers) have far eclipsed any other advertising category. New facilities open almost daily in nearly every part of the city (see a map of downtown dispensaries below.)

While these clinics operate according to the law as passed in 2000, the change in the local landscape has raised the alarm of some residents and law enforcement, leading to a backlash against Colorado’s newest "green" business community. State Representative Tom Massey (R- Poncha Springs) plans to introduce a bill that would restrict each "caregiver" to 5 patients each, a change that would essentially outlaw the dispensary model in Colorado.

Across Civic Center form the State Capitol, the Denver City Council has been debating its own attempt to balance the needs of patients, of law enforcement, and of other Denver residents. The Council is holding a public hearing at 6 pm Monday, January 11, on regulations that would apply to those dispensaries operating in the city. The bill would set a 1000 foot distance requirement from schools, child care centers, and other dispensaries; limit certain felons from operating dispensaries; bar onsite consumption of marijuana; and set fees and security measures.

The level of expected interest in this contentious topic is so high that the City has released special instructions for the public hearing. The time allowed for public comment has been doubled from one to two hours. In addition, potential speakers have been explicitly reminded that they are prohibited from using profanity or making personal attacks during their comments; and that audience applause is not allowed in Council chambers.

For more info on the proposed changes to legislation in Denver: Visit the Denver City Concil's website

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