The Saga Continues . . .By Jake Browne
“We did it!”
The cries came from all directions as Amendment 64 supporters gathered at the official election watch party. The news declared the race over and like that, Colorado was the first state to approve the decriminalization of small amounts of marijuana for adults over 21. Later that night, measures passed in Washington and failed in Oregon, but there was a sense in the room that Colorado was leading the way in all things cannabis. The more pressing question for patients, medical marijuana centers and everyone else in the state became: What’s next?
For patients, it was an overwhelming victory. The amendment was careful to craft language that removed all sales tax for medical marijuana sales—an issue that patients’ rights advocates had been pushing the legislature for years. When the campaign had touted the immense amount of tax revenue that would be generated, it’s important to remember that tithe would be coming from the pockets of cannabis users. This took medical patients out of that equation.
The second boon came for those who wanted to dabble in growing their own plants. Colorado law now allows for the cultivation of up to six plants—with three in a mature “flowering” state—for adults 21 and over as long as they cultivate them in a private area of their home or on private land that isn’t viewable by the public. For many, designating a primary center or caregiver took away their ability to start their own garden in exchange for discounts on medicine and other perks in the case of dispensaries. Decriminalizing grows for personal use won’t kick in to effect until Governor Hickenlooper certifies the election results, which many predict won’t occur until the new year. At that point it becomes the law of land.
Dispensaries, for the most part, were supportive of Amendment 64, volunteering time or serving as hubs where people could pick up yard signs. They had good reason to: When licensing for recreational stores begins October 2013, those who operate medical marijuana centers will be given preference during the application process. This has created some division in the industry. Some don’t feel it’s right to leave patients for those who don’t need cannabis for its medicinal properties. Others want to stay medical because they feel that will help stave off federal interference—the fear is the Obama administration, whose record isn’t sterling when it comes to medical cannabis, will seek to close down any new recreational shops that open under A64.
What many didn’t expect was the flood of calls and walk-ins from people who wanted to buy marijuana the day after A64 passed—and for weeks afterwards. Since retail outlets aren’t scheduled to open until 2014 at the earliest, many may be searching for ways to get their hands on the legally approved plant. While personal growing and consumption will be approved shortly, there isn’t a model for distribution built in. Now more than ever patients are hearing from friends and family asking if they can “make a trip” for them. Keep in mind: The redistribution of medical cannabis remains a crime that can lead to serious consequences, such as the revocation of an MMJ business’s license.
While Colorado made history in 2012, it may seem like forever for some before they can enjoy the hard-won rights and liberties that medical patients secured for themselves so many years ago. The new chapter has begun—time to fill in the details.
With the passage of Amendment 64, local prosecutors are opting to dismiss cases involving possession of small amounts of cannabis by adults 21 or older. “You’ve seen an end to mere possession cases in Boulder County under my office,” DA Stan Garnett told the Daily Camera. “It was an ethical decision. Denver City Attorney Doug Friednash essentially said the said thing. The University of Colorado and Longmont have also said they won’t prosecute simple possession cases.