New rules for MMDs expected

Colorado’s storefront medical marijuana centers face rigorous security requirements in the coming months as the state works to keep pot from falling into the wrong hands.

Surveillance cameras tied to state computers, weight records of growing plants and background checks with fingerprinting for all employees are among the rules in a 77-page draft released Friday on the Colorado Department of Revenue website.

“They’re going to put a lot of small businesses out of business,” said attorney Sean McAllister with the Cannabis Law Center in Denver, adding that compliance will cost as much as $30,000 for a center.

The draft was published the same week two Wyoming teenagers were arrested on suspicion of twice robbing Infinite Wellness Center, a Fort Collins dispensary (or center). Robbers broke through a Plexiglass door Monday, stealing five jars of cannabis from the store as employees hid in a safe room.

But the incident and a December robbery at the same location are the only two involving a local dispensary since the industry began blooming in 2009. Several pharmacies and banks also have been robbed in that time.

“We have had quite a few pharmacy robberies for prescription drugs – more than we’ve had at the licensed dispensaries, for sure,” said Fort Collins Police Capt. Jerry Schiager.

He said burglaries have been more common for the marijuana businesses, but perpetrators often don’t get away with pot because it’s locked in safes. Black market, residential grow operations have been the subject of many armed robberies, Schiager said.

The new regulations are pending review by the Colorado Attorney General’s office, and time is allowed for compliance before they’re effective July 1.

Julie Postlethwait, spokeswoman for the Department of Revenue’s Medical Marijuana Enforcement Division, said it’s difficult to say what impact the new rules will have on marijuana centers, which last year were required to submit expensive, in-depth applications among other requirements.

“It’s a small business. It’s also a small business dealing with what is a Schedule I drug in the United States,” she said. “They’re going to have to be regulated.”

Kylie Marsh, an employee at FOCO Compassion Center on East Vine Drive said the business has been planning for the regulations and likely won’t have many more steps to get compliant. But there are looming questions.

“It’s still so gray,” she said. “Even with all the new, stringent regulations, it’s still so gray.”

For example, marijuana plants grown in water or with aeroponics (grown in air, or without a medium such as soil) can have root systems embedded in pipe systems.

“There’s no possible way to pick up your plant and weigh it without totally derooting it,” she said.

A municipal proposal to limit the amount dispensaries can sell to one another to 8 ounces also might have a negative impact on the industry.

She said the businesses are “based on variety,” with people buying pot strains bred to cause certain effects.

Tina Valenti, owner of Harmony Wellness in Windsor, said she’s not concerned about further state regulations, as she battles to keep in business in a town that has moved to ban dispensaries.

The statewide regulations also would require labeling of the marijuana sold, including all ingredients, chemical additives and nonorganic pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers used in cultivation and production.

Employees would be required to wear badges and the digital surveillance cameras would have to be placed in specific locations. The video footage would need to be stored for 20 days as well as be accessible by a remote government office.

One of three new Department of Revenue enforcement offices is to be located in Fort Collins, and compliance officers are to conduct scheduled as well as nonscheduled checks of the businesses. The statewide programs regarding medical marijuana are financed through costs to the dispensaries.

The regulations, were drafted by a panel of 34 people ranging from law enforcement to doctors, dispensary owners and local government representatives.

“I think these rules move this industry closer to the mainstream,” said Denver attorney Brian Vicente, who served on the panel. “We’re now regulating these shops like pharmacies, and that will safeguard owners.”

Vicente is executive director of marijuana-advocacy group Sensible Colorado, and McAllister is on its board.

Postlethwait said a number of compromises were made in preparing the regulations after public hearings and written comments. She said the emphasis has been on protecting dispensary owners as well as keeping marijuana away from people who don’t have legal access to it.

“As with anything, not everybody’s happy with everything,” she said.

via : Coloradoan

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