On Tuesday, April 15, 2015, the Colorado Senate voted unanimously to approve a bill which would more strictly regulate medical marijuana caregivers. Advocates of the bill say that it would cut down on black market marijuana and add transparency to the caregiver system, but opponents of the bill see this as an attack on medical marijuana patients and caregivers.
Sponsored by Democratic Sen. Irene Aguilar, Senate Bill 14 would require medical marijuana caregivers to register with the state health agency and medical marijuana licensing authority. Upon being informed of their duty to register, unregistered caregivers would have 10 days to comply or risk being permanently barred from acting as a medical marijuana caregiver.
SB 14 would also place a hard cap on the maximum number of marijuana plants a caregiver can grow before being required to get a license. Caregivers would be able to grow a maximum of 36 plants, six plants per patient and a maximum of five patients, and under “exceptional circumstance” up to 99 plants.
Caregivers would also be required to give informed consent to their patients that the marijuana they grow has the potential to contain contaminants and is unverified in THC levels. Aside from new rules on caregivers, SB 14 would also come with a bevy of requirements for state agencies.
The Colorado medical board would be required to adopt rules regarding guidelines for physicians when recommending medical marijuana for patients that suffer from severe pain. State health agencies would be required to share the minimum amount of information necessary to confirm that medical marijuana patients have only one caregiver and are not using a medical marijuana dispensary as well. In order to pay for the new requirements, money would be taken out of the state’s marijuana tax fund.
Naturally, Colorado caregivers are displeased with the proposed measures. Jason Warf, executive director of the Southern Colorado Cannabis Council, opposes SB 14.
“The overall reaction from our caregivers is this is an unconstitutional move and a deliberate attack on patients and caregivers,” Warf told The Gazette. “Should this pass, it will do absolutely nothing but drive people back underground. No one is going to be growing for people who are sick and dying and we will again be locking people up for growing cannabis.”
Tyler Henson, President of the Cannabis Chamber of Commerce, would likely disagree with Warf’s assessment. “Our caregivers system is being abused across Colorado as a means of avoiding proper licenses or abiding by the same regulations as the rest of the cannabis industry,” Henson told The Denver Post this past February.
So would SB 14 kill the caregiver system and throw innocent people in jail? Probably not, but it would certainly disrupt the status quo for many patients and providers. Without implementation, it is difficult to define the specific effect the bill would have, but some of the provisions, like mandatory registration for caregivers, seem like common sense solutions that can help caregivers in the long run.