Colorado has recently relaxed their laws on medical marijuana significantly. By issuing state medical marijuana business licenses, they have effectively legalized medical marijuana entrepreneurialism, and opened the doors for many medical marijuana businesses to start operating without fear of federal action being taken against them.
Eleven licenses have been granted to medical marijuana businesses, including dispensaries and makers of medicinal marijuana products such as medicated brownies or chocolate bars. Seven other businesses have been told that they can expect to get a license before the year is out. There are another 467 medical marijuana related enterprises in the state, and they are beginning the first step towards approval, with state officials contacting local authorities to determine whether they object to cannabis related businesses operating in their area.
Medical marijuana is an incredibly contentious issue in Colorado, with many differing opinions between advocates and anti-medical marijuana activists. A petition by Colorado’s Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, a pro-marijuana pressure group, gathered 86,000 signatures on a legalize marijuana petition earlier this year.
Colorado’s moves towards decriminalization of the drug are in stark contrast to the stance being taken by California’s lawmakers. Once the most liberal state in the union towards medical marijuana, Californian authorities have taken the unprecedented step of telling medicinal dispensaries to stop selling marijuana within 45 days. Perhaps this is sign of the tide of the liberal view of medical marijuana turning towards the east.
Colorado officials are allowing decisions about dispensaries to be made at the local level. Not all localities are happy to allow medical marijuana to be sold in their neighborhood. Fort Collins, in Larimer County, already has a dispensary ban on the ballot, with the local Sheriff Justin Smith coming down hard on medical marijuana. Fort Collins isn’t the only location where such a ban is being proposed. Many communities will be asked to decide whether they feel medical marijuana has a place in their back yard at the November 1st elections.
Dan Hartman, the state’s Medical Marijuana Regulator, has already come under fire for appearing to encourage communities to vote against any ban at the local level. He has written an open letter explaining to communities that, due to the state’s constitution permitting patients obtaining medical marijuana from a registered caregiver, voting against regulated dispensaries in their neighborhood wouldn’t eradicate medical marijuana. Instead it would merely stop the State Medical Marijuana Enforcement division from ensuring that medical marijuana sales in their community are regulated, monitored, safe, secure and taxed.
Hartman came under a huge amount of pressure as a result of this letter, and state Attorney General John Suthers deemed the letter to be unethical. Stan Hilkey, Sheriff of Mesa County, said the letter was “highly inappropriate” and could appear to advocate against a ban.
Whatever way local communities choose to vote on the ban propositions that will be put before them on November 1st, the law at the state level has been changed irrevocably. Colorado’s lawmakers have sent out a clear message of tolerance towards medical marijuana.