Gov Hickenlooper Proposes Tighter Regulation For Patient Grows
As previously covered on Weed News, the new administration moving into D.C. next month represents a big question mark for all the states with a legal cannabis industry. During his campaign, President-Elect Trump repeatedly vowed to leave the question of cannabis regulation and prohibition “to the states.” And any federal crackdown would likely inspire heavy backlash, both from “green state” voters and from the budding legal cannabis industry.
Colorado’s Governor John Hickenlooper has proposed some new measures for tighter regulation on all home grows in the state, in hopes it may deter any federal action. Last week, the Denver Post reported that the governor intends to push for a ban on group recreational home grows (collectives) and make new, costly registration requirements for medical cannabis home growers or their caregivers. Denver is also working on more regulation, for it’s current plan to limit unlicensed recreational and medical grows in private residences, but Governor John Hickenlooper statewide proposal is to battle what he sees as an abuse of Colorado’s constitutional growing allowances.
Governor Hickenlooper’s proposal includes a statewide twelve-plant limit on grows in private residences. Denver already enforces a twelve-plant cap within city limits and is currently researching home grows and discussing possible new ordinances. The governor also wants lawmakers to ban collective recreational grows and to require caregivers to keep track of their plants and where they go.
Medical cannabis in Colorado has been legal for nearly two decades now, residential grows have been highly scrutinized over the past couple years, with local jurisdictions passing their own laws to further regulate what adults, patients and caregivers can grow themselves. State law for medical home cultivation allows up to 99 plants with a doctor’s recommendation, a number many patients depend on in Colorado.
This past summer in the city of Colorado Springs, a new ordinance was passed limiting private residences to a 12 plants limit just like Denver, regardless of what your doctor says or recommends. The justification for this is to prevent the non-patients from taking advantage of this state’s medical cannabis laws to grow large quantities of cannabis for distribution out-of-state. Yet all they have done here is to punish all the medical patients and treat them like criminals.
How it is possible for members of a City Council to insert itself into the doctor-patient relationship and second-guess the merits of a medical recommendation or even issue such medical advice? Medical cannabis advocates in Colorado worry that real patients will suffer under stricter regulations and as always not the criminals who, by definition, don’t care what the law says.
Take for example the cancer patient, utilizing Rick Simpson Oil (RSO) for treatment. It takes approximately 500 grams of dried cannabis buds to make 60 ml of RSO for a 45 day supply with a low dose of 1-2 ml per day dosage. For those who have been damaged by chemotherapy and/or radiation, the dosage needed can be two to three times that at 180 ml of RSO. Imposing a new statewide plant cap at 12 plants would prevent the medical program patients from being able to properly treat themselves.
“This is not at all what people voted for,” patient rights lobbyist Jason Warf tells the Colorado Springs Independent, about the governor’s proposals to further restrict home grows. “I am taking calls almost daily from dispensary owner’s, patients, and caregivers who want to get rid of all regulation and tax money to the state. They feel attacked, and rightly so.” Some local caregivers are intending to file a lawsuits taking aim at Colorado Springs’ home-grow ordinance. If successful, it could, their attorneys believe, have consequences for municipal plant limits statewide.
The state constitutional amendment that legalized medical cannabis provides for private growing and contains language granting patients access to whatever quantity of cannabis is “medically necessary.” While 2012’s Amendment 64 allows recreational users to combine their allotted six plants into co-ops, effectively creating large-scale growing operations in which the plants aren’t taxed or tracked by the state.
Governor Hickenlooper claims the state’s liberal plant quotas enable black-market organizations to operate without detection by preventing law enforcement from easily distinguishing between legal and illegal grows. In late September of this year, the Drug Enforcement Administration, with the assistance of local Colorado law enforcement agencies, seized 22,000 pounds of cannabis from locations in five Southeastern Colorado counties (Pueblo, Otero, Bent, Crowley and El Paso). The large-scale bust targeted an unnamed organization that was reportedly growing in Colorado and shipping it out of state. The cannabis was allegedly being grown by a criminal group from Texas that allegedly set up illegal medical grows and recreational co-ops to distribute it to Arkansas and Texas.
In addition to a statewide twelve-plant cap, Hickenlooper’s proposals include providing monetary assistance to rural law enforcement agencies. The twelve-plant cap would still be more plants than caps in a few other states: California allows only six plants per home, while Washington requires people who wish to grow more than four plants to register with the state. The planned cap on a patient grow rights has already running into sharp criticism from activists, who say Colorado is simply trying to boost taxes by making it increasingly hard to grow cannabis by requiring more people to buy it from the store.
Teri Robnett, head of the Cannabis Patients Alliance, called on Colorado to wait for the already-in-the-works limits to take effect before passing more regulations. “We continue to restrict and restrict and not see how anything is working,” Robnett said.
As we move closer to a federal solution, we should emphasize the conservative and liberal held views of what freedom means- autonomy over one’s body, especially regarding one’s health and the medications they choose to put in their bodies and use to treat whatever it is that ails them. It is un-American to allow a state to determine the best medical care for patients, rather than the doctors and patients themselves.
In the case of American states in this era of legalization, it is no longer the individual’s right to determine the benefit of their cannabis use, but becoming a politician’s or a state government’s decision. If the government or policy makers thinks you are just wanting to have a good time, they can excise 15 or 20 percent or more in tax. This incentivizes many states to now classify more people’s use of cannabis as recreational rather than medical for those tax profits.
This can further lead to a “decoupling” of patients from their caregivers, in addition to many patients in states losing rights or being told they no longer qualify as medical. Newly imposed regulations like; how many patients can live together and cultivate, how many cannabis plants can be cultivated, and “useable amounts” of medical cannabis limits – have all seen reductions in medical programs following recreational legalization in many states. Too much focus has come about on these profits from within the medical cannabis market. Highlighting these profits in this very unique industry is causing a loss of focus from its humble origins, that stemmed from a grassroots movement based on freedom and the medicinal values of cannabis – not profits.