How Patients Access Medicine in Your Community: Medical Cannabis Centers or Caregivers?

The Medical Cannabis Center Model is one of the first pieces of legislation I’ve seen in a long time that Colorado Politicans are genuinely angry about. Most think this anger would be from the patients and industry that spent countless hours testifying against this premature and hurried piece of political law. After all, it was written in haste to try and cap a booming industry. In actuality, we see the people who voted this bill into place getting angry that they’ve legislatively created the “center model”.

This model, created by House Bill 1284, calls for a multi-million dollar State regulatory administration to monitor, license, structure, and audit the medical marijuana businesses and industry. Ironically, we now see right wing opposition to this bill from the same conservatives who voted it into law. Mark Waller, for example, publically supports the “Ban Group” and has appeared on live TV and radio to promise the people of Colorado the right to vote (again mind you) on whether to have medical marijuana facilities.

Ironically, Waller also voted in favor of HB 1284 which created the current regulatory model for medical marijuana centers. Within that law, local municipalities have the option to ban dispensaries completely. This option is what a handful of Colorado politicians think is best for their constituency of patients whose health is directly affected by this legislation.

El Paso County will decide Thursday whether to adopt a similar measure to their ballot and disband all existing centers from unincorporated parts of El Paso County. Thanks to Colorado Springs City Councilman Daryl Glenn, voters in the City and County may face a choice this November:  whether to exercise this legislative provisional loophole to ban the center model that was championed in the same bill. A bill that can nullify itself… voters don’t see that every day.

Conservative Colorado Springs group “Let us Vote COS” failed to gather the necessary signatures to bring this legally-created “opt out” option to ballot. Now we see these politicians step in. These guys are trying to tell the people of Colorado what we meant and didn’t mean when we guaranteed sick Coloradoans the right to alternative medication in the form of the cannabis plant and its medically-infused derivatives.  

Colorado Springs District Attorney Dan May, State Representative Mark Waller, and now CS City Councilman Darryl Glenn all support the default “caregiver model” that will be in place if centers are banned. This model was recently ratified by HB 1284 in July so it now limits caregivers to a maximum of 5 patients.  If a ban takes place in Colorado Springs, it would force nearly 10,000 patients to find a caregiver who can only grow for a maximum of 5 patients. This means over 2,000 caregivers would have to replace the 100 or so small businesses that currently exist in Colorado Springs!

In addition, patients would be forced to settle for limited supply and virtually no product differentiation from unsecure residential facilities run by “caregivers” whose identities are constitutionally protected by Amendment 20. These caregivers could be anyone over the age of 18 by law. Waller, May, and Glenn would have you believe that these 2000+ caregivers would “really care” implying they have more heart than the current business owners who have chiseled away a niche industrial market in full compliance with ever changing law.

Walgreens doesn’t anonymously make unregulated medicine in their basement and then limit it to 5 patients max, so how this makes sense in these politicians’ minds is beyond my rational understanding. It seems Waller has forgotten why he voted HB 1284 into existence in the first place. To move away from unregulated, untaxed, and unsafe caregivers by allowing a white market for medical cannabis that can be regulated, taxed, and secured in guaranteeing the Amendment 20 right “to dispense” medical cannabis to qualified patients.

There is a misinformed illusion that getting rid of the businesses of medical cannabis will solve the perceived “problem” of medical cannabis – regardless of what those perceptions may be. What the public doesn’t quite get is that a ban on centers simply changes the distribution model for this highly demanded commodity that provides necessary treatment for many Coloradoans.

Instead of patients accessing a wide variety of products in a safe and secure retail environment that closes by 7pm daily, they will be forced to go back into neighborhoods to obtain medicine from unregulated and anonymous caregivers. If anything, this allows more opportunity for systematic abuse, increased “black market competitive practices” (aka crime), and unsafe conditions associated with inexperienced and poorly equipped “caregivers” who May, Glenn, and Waller claim “really care” about each patient. They also argue that dispensaries cause these issues, without realizing that regulated centers are the solution to the created problem of advocating a ban. Just look at Aurora.

This is a crucial point to make as anonymity makes zoning caregivers impossible, limited supply increases medical cannabis prices and, as a result, street economics will gain back market share and crime becomes more prevalent. Along with these increased patient risks, neighborhoods also risk fires, robberies, electrical grid overload, discarded chemicals, and other issues associated with home-growing a $4000/lb commodity.  

Not only do these politicians misunderstand basic laws of supply and demand, they put people’s well being and safety on the line by advocating a city-wide ban. This would close over 100 existing small and medium businesses that would otherwise be regulated against these risks in commercial zones long desperate for paying tenants

If the people of Colorado truly believe in making a better quality of life for patients of their communities, they would do well to adhere to their own vote and guarantee the right to dispense medical cannabis to those who need it. As with any emerging market, time and regulation make safer and higher quality medicine more available as industry competes to eliminate those who cannot meet the demands of the market.  Thorough monitored and tracked supply channels, this seedling industry will have the oversight to calm the public’s fears and misperceptions of this plant.

The center model is the modern legislative structure created by politicians to satisfy the demand of markets now free to address the constitutional rights of patients. These patients have voted in their version of pharmacies with their feet and wallets. We voted Amendment 20 for them. What right do we have now to limit patients from accessing safe, controlled, and capable facilities from which their constitutionally guaranteed medicine is dispensed?

I pray that May, Glenn, Waller and other “ban politicians” never have to experience obtaining any medical provision recommended by their doctor from a non-licensed stranger that only serves 5 people at a time using questionable methods of production. That’s why we have the FDA for the other legal drug market. That’s also why we try to learn from the past to regulate new markets of the future.

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About markandmmj

I belong to a new generation of market pioneers in the fastest growing industry in Colorado today. As a double business major in international business and finance I’ve studied the economic viability of medical marijuana centers in Colorado Springs. I’ve learned firsthand the in and outs of this industry and what it takes to progressively move brand new markets forward. As Membership Director for the Colorado Springs Medical Cannabis Council, I have seen the industry in Colorado blossom despite countless economic, political, legislative, and social barriers. I strive to deliver objective truth about medical cannabis issues and their economic, social, and medical implications for Colorado.
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