Complaints about patients' underrepresentation finally seemed to get across at City Council's regular meeting last week.
Bridget Seritt, the only patient sitting on the working group that recommends medical marijuana policies to Council, first thanked the governing body for the honor to serve, then reminded them the 12-plant count ordinance was passed without any real input from the patients it affects. At the outset of the new moratorium, Council had promised to give the cannabis community, particularly patients, more of a voice on the working group, but that never quite came to fruition.
A caregiver who originally sat on the group stepped down in July so she could sue the city over the plant limit, which medical marijuana advocates say violates the state constitution. That left Seritt as the only voice for medical marijuana users on the group comprised otherwise of city officials and dispensary owners. Proposals like a licensing cap, floated by a dispensary manager, irk patients who feel their needs have been relegated behind the desires of business owners in local policymaking.
Jaymen Johnson, a cannabis club owner and candidate for City Council, has attended all but one of the working group meetings and, likewise, told council he's concerned about the empty seat. He also voiced frustration over having been denied the ability to act as an alternate for Seritt when she was absent once, even though other members have been allowed alternates. Most of all, Johnson took issue with the cancellation of public comment at these meetings.
"There's often misinformation presented at these meetings and the public isn't given the opportunity to correct it," he said. "I'm asking you make the group more open, more inclusive and more accurate to the city's needs."
Councilor Jill Gaebler, who's uninvolved in the working group, was surprised. "I didn't realize how skewed it is until today," she said, asking her colleagues, "can we please address this?" She added, "I don't want to see any ordinances or resolutions come before us until this has been fixed."
Despite that, Council then proceeded to pass zoning changes to the downtown form-based code that mirror those made in the rest of the city: medical marijuana dispensaries as a permitted use in commercial zones; commercial grows and non-hazardous infused product manufacturers as a conditional use in those zones; and hazardous infused product manufacturers permitted only in industrial zones.
Councilor Larry Bagley, who chairs the marijuana working group, said "we're looking at revising membership" and that the issue will be addressed at the next meeting, which is scheduled for Friday, Oct. 21 at 10 a.m. It is open to the public.
A local doctor accused of abusing the medical marijuana system has graced the pages of CannaBiz before. Dr. William Stone was one of four doctors in the state whose licenses were suspended by the state medical board in July. The doctors sued, arguing the state didn't give them the chance to adequately defend themselves and that the standards they are said to have violated appear to be pulled from thin air.
Now, a district court judge has ruled on the latter point in an older case challenging the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment's referral policy. The judge agreed that the department's crafting of the policy — which outlines a high case load, high plant-count recommendations and young age as criteria for referral for investigation by the medical board — not only violated state open meeting laws but also "[doesn't] appear to be based on scientific or medical evidence."
That the policy under which these four doctors were referred for investigation and ultimately suspended is now considered invalid may indeed be relevant to their case, but it's by no means a full reprieve. However, the state's responsibility to prove the doctors knew they were violating these hitherto unknown standards does now appear trickier.