DENVER (CBS4)– A measure that would increase oversight over medical marijuana caregivers has moved forward at the state Senate.
The bill to make it easier for law enforcement to verify whether pot growers are complying with state law cleared a Senate committee 5-0 Thursday.
The vote came after hours of fiery testimony from medical marijuana patients that the crackdown is unfair.
“What we’re hoping to do is provide additional protections for caregivers who are performing a service for patients,” said Sen. Irene Aguilar, a Democrat representing Denver.
There are nearly 3,000 marijuana caregivers in Colorado designated to grow medical marijuana on behalf of others. Unlike dispensaries, which are heavily regulated by the state, caregivers are largely unregulated.
Some state lawmakers say that has led to abuses including large grow operations that are more like small-scale businesses.
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The legislation would require Colorado’s caregivers to register with the state, including names, locations, the number of patients and plants.
“Patients and caregivers will not be protected and having a list such as this does put them at risk for intrusion from both law enforcement and also from intrusion into the patient-doctor relationship,” said Cannabis Patients Alliance spokeswoman Teri Robnett.
Robnett said the list also puts caregivers at risk of being outed to the federal government under a new administration. Supporters say the bill is meant to protect legitimate caregivers and stop those diverting pot to the black market.
When asked if he came across somebody who says they are a caregiver, and if there was anyway of verifying that, Erie Police Chief Marco Vasquez replied, “We really don’t. We have no caregiver registry card so it would be very difficult to verify whether that person is legit or not.”
While caregivers are required to register with the state, there’s no penalty so only one percent have actually registered. Under the bill, anyone who doesn’t register would lose their caregiver status permanently.
Opponents say the bill is simply an attempt to force more people to move to recreational pot so the state can make more money. Recreational pot is taxed at a higher rate than medical marijuana.
“to scare the doctors, to scare the patient and scare the caregivers, create a climate of fear, driving people into the dispensaries, the recreational dispensaries,” said marijuana attorney Rob Corry.