Medical marijuana forum a bust

The much-touted medical marijuana forum in Castle Rock went off with a whimper.

Fewer than 30 attended the event, many of those with an active role in organizing the forum. Attendees outnumbered media by about a 2 to 1 ratio.

A drunken heckler interrupted panelists throughout the evening.

While taking his seat, one panelist, a Boulder medical provider, told other panelists he was “self-medicated.”

And Castle Rock residents, with their sheer absence, conveyed they have zero interest in the medical marijuana debate.

The forum was organized in a joint effort by the Douglas County Substance Abuse Coalition and the League of Women Voters. The organizations aimed to raise awareness about medical marijuana in advance of the April 5, deadline for Castle Rock voters to have their say on the issue.

Castle Rock is the last community in Douglas County to vote on whether commercial medical marijuana activities should be prohibited in town limits. Opponents to the measure say prohibition will increase the number of home-care providers and push medical marijuana into local neighborhoods. Proponents decry the possibility of dispensaries dotted throughout Castle Rock, are concerned about alleged abuses of the medical marijuana system and fear an increase in the crime rate where dispensaries are.

Panelists included a mix of medical marijuana medical-care providers, law-enforcement agencies and a Denver attorney who has emerged as an expert in medical marijuana legislation.

Attorney Rob Corry successfully litigated a landmark medical marijuana case in the Centennial, successfully overturning the city’s ban on dispensaries. Corry represents Castle Rock’s sole dispensary, Plants4Life, which faces closure if voters elect to enforce prohibition.

Corry used the forum’s platform to state his position that consuming medical marijuana is a constitutional right that naturally extends to dispensaries. Corry is convinced medical marijuana is the most tightly regulated industry in Colorado and believes the dispensary model is the first step toward the eventual legalization of marijuana. He likens the movement to the Prohibition Era, when alcohol was prohibited.

“Alcohol prohibition was a total failure of government policy,” Corry said. “It attempts to control a person’s appetite, and the government can’t do that. Prohibition of medical marijuana in Castle Rock would only drive it underground. Instead of buying from a well-lit, regulated, safe dispensary, people are going to purchase it from unregulated, nontaxed criminals. That’s what’s going to happen in your community if they vote ‘yes’ (to prohibit).”

Corry was joined in his support of medical marijuana regulations by Robert Melamede, a medical doctor who routinely prescribes medical marijuana and is president and CEO of Cannabis Science in Boulder, and Alan Shackelford, a doctor of internal medicine who recently began recommending medical marijuana therapy to patients.

While taking his seat as the discussion began, Melamede shared with panelists he self-medicated before the forum.

“I’m impaired right now,” Melamede said with a laugh. “How bad am I?”

Melamede was seated next to Boulder County District Attorney Stan Garnett, who said medical marijuana is best regulated by zoning and land-use regulations rather than legislative action. Garnett was joined by 18th Judicial District Attorney Carol Chambers, who said the divide between Colorado’s constitution and federal laws against consumption must be closed before law enforcement agencies can stand off.

The discussion revealed several sore points on both sides of the debate, including the law enforcement point of view that consumption of medical marijuana by parolees results in a violation of probation and additional charges. Corry argued that medical decisions and choices are protected by the doctor/patient relationship and should not be scrutinized or second-guessed by courts, police officers or prosecuting attorneys.

Chambers countered such violations can be easily prevented.

“They can avoid a parole violation by not getting put on parole in the first place,” Chambers said.

Chambers was interrupted several times throughout the evening by a man who identified himself as Charles “Chuck” Welsh, of Castle Rock. Welsh was wearing a pro-MMJ T-shirt and was intoxicated. Mac McAvenia, with the Douglas County Substance Abuse Coalition, eventually sat next to Welsh in an effort to control his outbursts.

Chambers was flanked by Sunni Ball, who pointed out the challenge in El Paso County with parents who use their medical marijuana cards to stockpile marijuana for sale to local kids. Ball is a clinical psychologist who works with families at risk through the Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) in Colorado Springs.

Ball reported that the El Paso County teen court has seen parents who have medical marijuana cards go from dispensary to dispensary stockpiling their daily limit and give the product to their teenage kids. The family teens then sell the product to their classmates and friends for profit.

Ball decries the saturation of the industry in Colorado Springs, where she passes nine dispensaries every day on her drive to work.

“I know if you have a child and you are involved with human services in El Paso County, the department will not allow a child to be placed in a home where there is a medical marijuana user,” Ball said. “If you are involved with criminal drug court in El Paso, the criminal court will not allow you to be part of that treatment program if you have a medical marijuana card. Right now, one of the big problems in El Paso County is that the purchase of medical marijuana is not that closely regulated.”

Mail-in ballots were sent to Castle Rock voters in mid-March. Voters have until April 5 to weigh in on the medical marijuana question. For election results, visit our website at www.douglascounty247.com.

via : Colorado Community Newspapers

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