Top pot advocate Corry threatens to draw up rival legislation

DENVER– As Gov. Bill Ritter wrapped up his State of the State address inside the capitol Thursday, Colorado’s foremost pot attorney, Rob Corry, spoke to a crowd of medical marijuana patients, caregivers and advocates rallying across the street. Corry told the crowd of roughly 200 that he planned to submit a just-drafted patient-centered bill to counter any move on the part of lawmakers this session to pass what he views as pro-law enforcement-pro-government proposals presently under consideration.

Susan Squibb (Blond; TCI)
Susan Squibb (Blond; TCI)

Citing the protections provided by the country’s strictest pot law– Colorado is the only state with a Constitutional amendment (Amendment 20), rather than a law, governing medical marijuana rights– the always quotable Corry fired up the crowd:

“We will have a seat at that table… It is our fundamental right. The legislators can’t touch [marijuana] and they know it. That’s why the voters put it in the Constitution. We’ve been criticized for not kissing enough ass… There should be some ass kissing going on. But they should be kissing our asses. [Lawmakers are elected] to serve us.”

Corry hopes the legislators won’t need to read his bill, that they’ll choose to focus on righting the economy rather than regulating medical marijuana.

“Our top priority is that [lawmakers] take care of bigger things, like the economy. But we’re putting together our own proposal, a third proposal, a patient proposal,” he repeated.

The announcement comes a day after Sen. Chris Romer, a Denver Democrat who has been threatening to introduce legislation for a while, told the Denver Post the hot-button issue needed addressing. He seemed open to further exploration.

“There are lots of complexities to medical marijuana. Maybe the only way to really understand is to have 100 legislators and the attorney general try it for a day.”

Romer had drafted a sweeping marijuana bill that he subsequently scrapped in favor of a narrower proposal– one Corry does not support.

Dr. Ned Calonge, the state’s head of health and environment, collaborated with Romer on the bill. The point, Calonge told the Colorado Independent, was to “take the vagueness out of the doctor-patient relationship.“

Calonge said that one doctor has approved almost half of the medical marijuana red cards in the state and that another 15 doctors are responsible for 75 percent of the 17,000 cards now issued.

“I have concerns that it’s just a money-maker [for these doctors], a mill to get people cards who might not be appropriate… I don’t believe anyone who voted for the amendment to the constitution wanted to protect bad doctors providing substandard medical care,” Calonge said.

The issue is only getting hotter.

Thursday afternoon brought reports that Republican Rep. Tom Massey, who has drawn up a bill he has yet to introduce but that would drastically limit the number of patients dispensaries can serve, received threats at his home. Callers told his wife they would picket and bomb his Poncha Springs house.

Despite the fact that the state’s enormous budget shortfall has taken center stage in nearly all legislative discussions this week, Ritter spoke about the proliferation of pot dispensaries in his State of the State address. In addition to Masey’s bill, lawmakers are considering legislation that would prevent dispensaries from paying doctors to give medical marijuana recommendations. Lawmakers have acknowledged they are willing to work with advocates like Corry to reach a compromise regarding that limit.

Susan Squibb, who has been involved with the amendment legalizing medical marijuana since its inception ten years ago and who was caregiver to the state’s first medical marijuana red card-holding patient back in 2001, said she supported some legislative regulations on the medical-marijuana industry, but only to a point.

“My hope is that the legislature will give the community input and put regulations in place that will benefit patients. I think there have been attempts to blur the line between medical and recreational use, and this needs to be made clearer. Dispensaries need to be regulated and taxed, like pharmacies. But I don’t think medical marijuana should be taxed beyond what you pay for medication,” Squibbs said.

“Besides, this is a growth industry, the only growth industry in Colorado right now.”

Ever since Pres. Obama announced he would no longer use federal resources to prosecute medicinal marijuana in states that had legalized it for such purposes, dispensaries have flourished in Colorado, one of only two states where the trade is legal. There are now more than 30,000 patients on the medical marijuana registry here. A gram of all-organic medical-grade pot sells for up to $20, dispensaries reportedly purchasing it for roughly $3,000 per pound from growers. Medical marijuana has already become big business in Colorado in an otherwise limping economy.

Beth Potter contributed reporting to this report.

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