Medical marijuana dispensaries and licensed customers are springing up everywhere. The situation has all the appearances of being out of control, although nothing tragic has yet to occur. But things are coming to a head. We must clarify the ambiguities in the constitutional amendment passed by voters in 2000. What does it mean for a "primary care-giver" to have "significant responsibility for managing the well-being of a patient," giving them a defense against prosecution for marijuana offenses? Is this simply a euphemism for marijuana supplier? Why does the constitutional amendment make no provision for supplying patients with their medicine?
Yes, this is a job for the legislature. We should do our job and interpret the constitution and clarify what we have in state law. Dispensaries should be licensed and regulated, and we should know where the medicine comes from and where it goes. Patients' rights, as intended by voters, should be protected. Done right, we can promote an industry that creates jobs in agriculture, health and retail while paying license fees and contributing tax revenues to state and local governments. I was glad to see the sales tax issue cleared up by Attorney General John Suthers. I think we should consider a new excise tax on medical marijuana cultivation and dedicate the revenues to health care, mental health and substance abuse treatment.
There are a multitude of issues raised by the medicinal use of marijuana. Taxation is only the tip of the iceberg. It would be so much easier to simply legalize marijuana, but that would require an act of Congress and isn't likely to happen anytime soon. So we'll have to deal with the myriad issues in manageable chunks. As I've studied this issue I find more and more interesting legal conundrums. Can people on probation or parole use medical marijuana? Should a landlord be able to evict a person using medical marijuana in their apartment? Can a doctor be fired for recommending it? What about driving under the influence? Legal consumption in a parked car? This onion's got a lot of layers -- I don't think we'll get to them all in 2010.