DENVER (AP) – Colorado will maintain a medical marijuana registry, even though the drug is now legal for all adults and the registry has been criticized for security breaches.
The Colorado Board of Health, overseers of the medical pot registry, voted unanimously Wednesday to reject a patient petition to dismantle the registry and start another one because of security breaches. The breaches were outlined in an audit earlier this year.
However, board members assured patients that they take seriously the security problems, which included using temporary employees to process medical marijuana patient applications without having them sign confidentiality pledges. In another case, the health department shared with auditors the names of 5,400 people designated to grow marijuana on behalf of others, without notifying the caregivers of the breach.
“People are discriminated against for being on the registry. I understand that fear,” board member Jill Hunsaker Ryan said.
Patient advocates are most concerned about access to the registry by law enforcement. The health department allows law enforcement to verify patient status and says it can’t control what law enforcement does after that. Patients say there’s a “shadow registry” used by police to harass pot patients, something law enforcement agencies have denied.
One of the patient advocates who requested the registry be dismantled, Laura Kriho, told the board Wednesday that she frequently hears stories of cops knowing people are medical marijuana patients before the patients present a card.
“Clearly, law enforcement is getting access to the registry. There are too many of these complaints to fluff them off to paranoia,” Kriho said.
Kriho has declined to share the names of any patients, saying they fear losing jobs and other consequences for using marijuana
The Board of Health rejected the same petition in August, when Kriho and other advocates asked for an emergency rule to dismantle the registry. Wednesday’s vote means the question won’t move to formal rulemaking.
Board members planned to set up a “stakeholder” group including the upset patients as they explore security improvements without dismantling the registry.
Also Wednesday, the board agreed to consider lower marijuana patient fees by the end of the year.
Although marijuana use is now legal for all adults over 21 in Colorado, some 109,000 people are registered to use medical marijuana.
Patients pay $35 a year for the right to shop in dispensaries and possess more marijuana than a recreational user. The registry is not supposed to make money, just cover administrative costs. It once cost $90 a year to be a Colorado medical pot patient.
The administrator of Colorado’s pot patient registry, Ron Hyman, said patients are being asked for the first time what they think about fees. Options include lower fees for all, or a higher rate for a first-time patient with free or low-cost annual renewals.
Hyman said that despite the security problems and legalization vote, Colorado’s medical registry remains vibrant. As of the end of August, the registry had more than 109,000 people. That’s more than the month before full legalization passed in 2012.
“I haven’t seen any evidence of it fading,” Hyman said.
– By Kristen Wyatt, AP Writer
(© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)
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