Colorado Springs Councilman Bernie Herpin jumped into the debate this morning, saying a ban on medical marijuana dispensaries could drive hundreds if not thousands of grow operations into residential areas.
As the debate rages on, Herpin said the issue has generated “lots of e-mail.”
“Most want me to put a ‘ban the centers’ question on the ballot,” Herpin said in an e-mail.
Herpin has prepared a written response to all those e-mails. In it, Herpin says he doesn’t support “asking those people who have no vested interest in a constitutional right if they want to limit the exercise of that right.”
Herpin is referring to Amendment 20, a voter-approved measure that legalized medical marijuana in Colorado.
Here’s the full text of Herpin’s response:
Thank you for your message on medical marijuana (MMJ). I, too, am concerned about the number of MMJ centers and believe that once our ordinances and state laws are in place, many of these centers will be forced to close.
The proliferation of MMJ centers can be directly attributed to persons in the medical profession (doctors) since MMJ cannot be dispensed to nor used by anyone who has not received a recommendation by a medical doctor. If the authorized patients did not exist to purchase MMJ from these centers, they would not exist. I suggest you contact the Colorado Medical Association, the Colorado Medical Board, and the State Department of Health and Environment and urge them to investigate and take action on those doctors who are apparently recommending medical marijuana to anyone who asks.
While the Obama administration is not enforcing drug laws against medical marijuana in those states, like Colorado, where it is legal, it is still a prohibited drug under federal law and it cannot, therefore, be dispensed from “traditional” pharmacies.
As I have received several messages, pro and con, on this issue, I have developed the following to explain my position. There is much misinformation about MMJ and the MMJ Centers. As you will see below, I believe our licensing and regulating ordinances will limit the number and location of these centers and keep them from close proximity to schools, day care centers, and neighborhoods.
Amendment 20 to the Colorado Constitution, passed in 2000 by a majority of the voters, made medical marijuana a constitutional right in Colorado.
MMJ centers can only dispense to those people that have been issued a MMJ card by the Colorado Department of Health upon the recommendation of a doctor. If people are getting MMJ cards under false pretense, then that is the fault of the doctors and they should be investigated and have their license revoked if found to be in violation of the rules.
I do not advocate the legalization of drugs. MMJ is a special case in that the citizens of the state voted to allow its use. The Obama administration has decided to not enforce federal marijuana laws in those states where MMJ is legal as long as the growers, dispensers, and users do not violate state law.
There is a citizen group that is circulating a petition to put a MMJ center ban on the ballot. If they get enough signatures, citizens will vote on a ban of the MMJ centers. In the meantime, we are proceeding with our ordinance to regulate the centers.
My reason for supporting moving forward with local regulation of MMJ centers, as authorized in House Bill 10-1284 passed by the state legislature this session, was mainly because the use of MMJ is a constitutional right and the majority of the patients who have been issued state MMJ cards truly believe that this treatment helps them. We have heard from several such people at our council meetings.
While the “dispensary” issue was not clear in Amendment 20, no limit was placed on the number of people a caregiver could serve and caregiver is defined in Amendment 20. The state Department of Health was asked to restrict the number of patients that a caregiver could serve and they refused. This prompted HB 1284 which limits “traditional” caregivers to 5 patients and sets up the rules for an MMJ “center”. HB 1284 also gives local government the authority to license and regulate MMJ centers which we will be doing.
HB 1284 also allows a vote by the citizens on if the MMJ centers should be banned. I do not support asking those people who have no vested interest in a constitutional right if they want to limit the exercise of that right.
To me, it would be akin to asking voters if we should ban all gun stores from Colorado Springs. You could still own a firearm, but you couldn’t buy a firearm, ammunition, or accessories in Colorado Springs.
If the citizens were to ban medical marijuana centers, which are legal under HB 1284, those authorized users of MMJ could still grow their own or have a caretaker grow for them. However, they would lose the ability to obtain their MMJ from a center that would offer different products for different needs, get advice on use, and have a resource for the treatment of their medical need.
In addition, the elimination of MMJ centers will push the growing of MMJ back into neighborhoods rather than keeping it in commercial areas. Every MMJ user can grow their own marijuana. I don’t think we want hundreds or thousands of marijuana grow operations in residential areas. Rather, I want known, licensed, inspected, and taxed centers instead of thousands of individual grow operations in homes with little or no security.
As a former spokesman for Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), I think a more serious problem for Colorado Springs, and the state/nation, is alcohol abuse. Thousands of innocent people are killed and injured each year by drunk drivers; yet, we allow bars and liquor stores all over the city. A minor can walk into a liquor store and purchase a non-alcoholic drink and a snack. There are no locked doors on a liquor store requiring a patron to be “buzzed” in. Likewise, traditional pharmacies dispense much more harmful narcotics from inside a Wal-Mart or grocery store where there is nothing between the drugs and the customer but a counter.
There have been shootings, stabbings, fights, near riots, etc. outside downtown bars. I haven’t heard of anything like this outside a MMJ center.
The regulations and licensing requirements we will be putting on MMJ center owners and employees are much tougher than for any other business in town; including, bars, liquor stores, adult book stores, strip clubs, etc. We will say who can own or work in a MMJ center. We will require locked and controlled doors, security systems, background checks, application fees, annual licensing fees, etc. We will control where they can be located, when they can operate, and what kind of sign they can have. I believe these regulations and costs, coupled with market forces, will serve to decrease the number of MMJ centers. I know of no other legal business that has such restrictions.
Council Member District 4