Medical Marijuana and the Great Debate in Colorado Springs

The “battle of the brains” as I’m calling it, was a heavily contested bout between Rep. Mark Waller and D.A. Dan May discussing the medical cannabis issue against city councilors Tom Gallagher and Sean Paige.

This will be a hot button issue leading up to November and we should advocate channeling the growth of this fast-paced industry toward positive societal goals. Colorado citizens already understand and voted to constitutionally protect the medical benefits of this plant for qualified patients. Everyone knows someone who knows, or is, a patient. Those patients and that person, have a right granted by fellow Coloradoans to use marijuana as medicine. The medicine works for them and their doctors agree to its alternative use over prescription medications. Although all the debaters agreed to the fact that the Colorado constitution guarantees these rights, they disputed the majority of other medical marijuana issues. 

Sean Paige opened the pro-industry argument well and gave a nutshell analysis of the past 8 years of medical cannabis in this State. He admitted that for most of that time all government officials ignored doing ANYTHING about Amendment 20 and many patients were reluctant to sign on for fear of DEA prosecution. Once Obama federally told the DEA to stop picking on sick people, (as it was a waste of government resources) Colorado saw a boom of dispensary businesses that no longer feared imprisonment as long as they remained compliant.

After all, suppressed demand and limited access to quality medication created a plethora of suppliers ready to meet exponentially increasing patient demand. Some of these new market entrants emerged from the shadows of stigmata and created a brand new ”white market” from the ground up. These people have put a lot of hard work into making their business, industry, and communities thrive. They also all proudly post clean background checks and each has applied over 6lbs of paperwork with the State to pay for Medical Cannabis licensure allowing them the legislative right to help their patients.

Paige received applause for advocating a progressive society that doesn’t stigmatize people for any reason. This effectively stunted the “Ban Group” from calling patients criminals, though Waller still implied that patients sell their medicine to non-patients and that the industry was “corrupt with fraud”. I’m sure he meant these people as the exception, not the rule. I’m also sure he doesn’t have any evidence to support his allegation.

Tom spoke the truth when it came to history of the legislation leading us to this point as a city. He was unafraid to call Rep. Mark Waller out his vote in favor of the State’s superseding legislation (HB 1284) that overrode the City’s hard-fought and democratic local ordinances. Gallagher concluded this point with the fact that the State had to “ruin it” by sticking in its thumb and meddling it up.

The City’s approach involved drafting legislation with the industry, its patients, and the Colorado Springs community input. This “task force” understood the needs of the City and worked to moderately balance these with the needs of the industry by working with those for whom Amendment 20 was written for.

Waller even admitted he listened to the federal government’s advice on how to shape legislation for Colorado’s new industry. With  hours of packed room testimony AGAINST HB 1284, many patients and business owners were shocked to see the State make a decision in favor of this bill in less than 24 minutes. The decision process to approve this premature legislation on the Senate floor was a formality at best for those Coloradoans whose health and well being is affected by actions like Mark Waller’s. If anyone reads the 77+ page document that regulates a 5,000 year old plant, it’s plain to see the motivations behind many of its mandates. The fact that Waller listened to the Federal government over his own constituency should, in my citizen-opinion, disqualify his representative status for Colorado’s populous. Why is Waller listening to the Federal Government over the Colorado patients for whom the Amendment was written?

Pro-MMJ applause was repeatedly silenced by KOAA’s moderator Rob Quirk despite truly moving statements from the City Council members. A double standard on the moderator’s part was evident as additional time was given to opposition Dan May to finish his points solely because the moderator wanted “to hear him finish” his argument… On live TV and radio broadcast nonetheless.

May and Waller’s arguments involved a handful of media highlighted crime cases involving medical cannabis facilities. Paige responded brilliantly that there were over 200 bank robberies last year, but that no one is trying to ban banks. He elaborated that these business owners understand the risks involved and have insurance, security, and preventative measures to protect themselves.

Waller and May also argued that medical cannabis will increase teen marijuana use despite there being only 13 patients in Colorado under 18 years old. Waller thinks this will increase dropout rates. Gallagher refuted these claims by pointing out that whether a state has MMJ or not, test scores vary state to state. The “Ban Group” also sentimentally pushed the word “caregiver” to its audience explaining that these people “truly care” about the patient and had been operating just fine before dispensaries. This is complete misinformation as is the “danger” stigma of the plant.

What Mr. May failed to mention, but that Tom did, is that these caregivers are completely anonymous and cannot be traced, regulated, zoned, taxed, or licensed. The caregiver model is the Wild West model limited to 5 patients in HB 1284 and not much more (oh, and good luck D.A. Dan May in enforcing plant limits within a caregiver’s home). When we can see cities like Aurora banning centers just to receive an enormous increase in new home grows, it makes you wonder if Waller and May even know what they are advocating. Tom calls it the law of unintended consequences; personally, I think the Ban Group is fear mongering, irresponsibly non-representative, and apparently uneducated about this plant and its industry.

The societal argument for the re-legalization of recreational cannabis may gain ground as people simply look at the plant’s facts and its history. Hopefully, debates like these will prompt people to educate themselves about this plant and the political motivations behind its illegal status. Though I can’t guarantee Waller and May will take up a botany class any time soon, I can hope they educate themselves on both sides of the issue for their voter’s sake. For those of you new to the industry and issue, you owe it to yourselves to learn more and you should visit with the people pioneering this ancient market in Colorado’s new and law abiding way.


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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