Colo House members cast weed day yes vote on medical marijuana bill

DENVER– Inside the capitol Tuesday the House worked over changes to a bill that would regulate the state’s burgeoning medical marijuana industry. Outside the capitol, thousands of annual 4/20 Pot Day revelers rallied to free the weed from legal constraints altogether.

Denver 4/20 rally, 2010 (boven)

As schools let out across the city, the crowd swelled and the air grew dense with sticky haze. Allen St. Pierre, national director for pro-legalization group NORML, called out to the rallyers and to the the legislators. “We have to legalize marijuana. Medical legalization is only a half-baked loaf.”

The proposed law concerning the “half-baked loaf” sponsored by Reps Tom Massey, D-Poncha Springs, and Ken Summers, R-Lakewood, seeks to hold the pot industry to the medical purposes voted into law by voters in 2000.

In a speech echoing around the civic center, however, St. Pierre pointed out that developments here and elsewhere were already moving beyond the statutes the lawmakers were considering. He said NORML was dumping millions of dollars into a “tax cannabis initiative” that would legalize marijuana in California. Legalization there would lead to a ripple affect across the country. “If California legalizes marijuana, what do you think Colorado is going to do? It is going to re-legalize marijuana,” he said.

He referenced the anti-tax Tea Party movement. What are they complaining about? he asked. The rights of marijuana users have been trampled for more than 70 years of prohibition.

Rep. Jack Pommer, D-Boulder, told lawmakers they should strike an amendment allowing medical marijuana applicants to receive hearings at the state medical board. “Let’s be straight about this. There is no condition where marijuana is the preferred medication.” He listed four conditions where doctors have said marijuana, or the THC extracted from the plant distributed in pills, is helpful. “But the best effect was not found when smoking. Smoking was found to be detrimental.”

Lawmakers voted down the amendment that would have loosened the rules governing medical board hearings.

Speakers outside encouraged the crowd to go in and view the historic legislative process but only a few entered the capitol.

One woman in the crowd said she was surprised at the turnout. She had expected a political rally. This looks like “just a bunch of kids smoking weed,” she said.

Another participant pointed out that gathering and smoking weed is political. He had come down to promote a similar festival to be held in Longmont. He wanted to make sure everybody could celebrate in “the magic and sacred and be able to get to do this without being repressed.”

Police officers told the Colorado Independent no one had been arrested and that there were no plans to arrest anyone on the grounds for smoking pot.

The rally broke up hours after members of the House agreed unanimously to move the medical marijuana bill on to the next hearing. It’s another step in the normalization of the pot industry here. Patients will have access to the drug. Sales taxes will roll in to drained state coffers.

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Joseph Boven

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