Sparks fly in the House around proposed pot patient videotape law

Kyl Marsh testifies at Thursday night's meeting (photo: Cannabis Therapy Institute)

A tense exchange Thursday sidetracked a House amendment that would end a proposed requirement that medical marijuana patients for tax purposes hold up their ID cards to be videotaped during dispensary visits. An advocate for the amendment managed to so antagonize amendment sponsor Rep. Jerry Sonnenberg, R-Sterling, that Sonnenberg pitched the amendment in the trash.

On taping and spitting

Sonnenberg told the Colorado Independent that he drafted the amendment to eliminate the use of video cameras at dispensaries. In the House Friday, he was speaking to law enforcement agencies who were opposed to the bill when Miguel Lopez began videotaping him. 

Sonnenberg said that he asked Lopez to stop taping. Lopez wouldn’t stop. Sonnenberg and Lopez exchanged more words. Sonnenberg said he told Lopez that they were on the same side of this issue, that he was trying to help Lopez, but to no avail.

“Miguel blew up that there was no way I could help him. So, I tore the amendment up, tore it up and said ‘I’m done.’ I threw the amendment away.” 

Lopez said he was videotaping the House meeting in the interest of transparency.

“Apparently one of the lobbyists was making a backroom deal to get rid of one of the cameras (required in dispensaries). We were asking for transparency and they didn’t want to include us. So Rep. Sonnenberg turned around and ripped up [the amendment] in front of us, with really, not what I would say was appropriate candor for a state house official,” Lopez said.

Lopez said that after Sonnenberg went into chambers, lobbyist Kara Miller came outside and started screaming at him. “She was saying that I F’d it up,” Lopez said.  

Sonnenberg said that’s not the whole story. He said Lopez actually spit at Miller after she went to smooth things over with him. Sonnenberg also said Lopez was then escorted out of the Capitol.

Lopez said he didn’t spit on anyone and was not escorted out of the capitol. He said he left of his own accord to avoid further confrontation.

On taxes and the feds

Debate over House Bill 1043, a bill bringing increased regulations to the industry, was contentious from the get-go.

The bill under discussion actually has little to do with laws being developed by the Colorado Department of Revenue and State Licensing Authority over videotaping. yet the idea that patients would be required to hold their cards up to be filmed during purchase and that those tapes would then be placed in a state archive for tax purposes dominated debate.

A representative from the Department of Revenue admitted that the state would be unable to stop the federal government from seizing the videotapes for law enforcement action.

Sonnenberg and Rep. Claire Levy, D-Boulder, expressed concerns and Sonnenberg drafted an amendment that would take videotaping out of the equation.

The controversial bill sponsored by Rep. Tom Massey is sure to draw more fireworks as the session proceeds.

Massey told the Colorado Independent that his bill had nothing to do with videotaping as it was originally drafted. He said the rules in the bill were promulgated in House Bill 1284. 

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