A proposal to spell out the doctor-patient relationship in prescribing medical marijuana cleared its first hurdle in the Colorado Legislature on Wednesday.
Senate Bill 109, sponsored by Sen. Chris Romer, D-Denver, was approved by the Senate Health and Human Services Committee by a vote of 6-1.
Romer’s bill is designed to make it more difficult for recreational pot smokers to obtain the drug through the medical marijuana system.
The bill aims to clarify the relationship between medical marijuana users and physicians who prescribe the drug, and to require any non-veteran under the age of 21 seeking a prescription to go before a new board.
The proposal also would prohibit doctors from working for dispensaries and bar physicians from giving discounts for patients who use preferred dispensaries. Additionally, it would require followup visits so the doctor can determine if continued treatment is necessary.
The legislation is the first of what is expected to be a number of bills to be introduced this year in response to a booming number of medical marijuana dispensaries cropping up across Colorado.
Many dispensary owners testified in favor of Romer’s bill Wednesday, saying it established legal perimeters for a growing industry with an uncertain future. Some fear that letting the medical marijuana market continue to operate with few guidelines will create the kind of chaos that prompted the Los Angeles city council to pass an ordinance to shut down most dispensaries within city limits.
But many medical marijuana users testified in opposition to the bill, saying it would cost them more money on top of the $90 annual fee they already pay to join the state’s medical marijuana registry. To appease those concerns, Romer offered an amendment that would let users waive the annual fee if they can’t afford it. The committee approved the change.
SB 109 goes to the Senate Appropriations Committee before heading to the Senate floor.
Along with SB 109, Rep. Tom Massey, R-Poncha Springs, has said he will sponsor legislation that will limit the number of patients each medical marijuana provider can have.
Some cities in Colorado already have created ordinances medical marijuana dispensaries, including rules that create buffer zones between schools, day care centers and other dispensaries.
Denver’s city council recently passed an ordinance requiring dispensary owners to pass a criminal background check and pay a $2,000 application fee and $3,000 a year to renew the license. The new rules are scheduled to take effect on March 1.
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