Articles Posted in Marijuana Defense

Although Colorado has the country’s most lenient medical marijuana laws, one particular point in fact helps medical marijuana regulators and law enforcement officials find and shut down illegal commercial marijuana cultivations and prosecute those operating them. According to the Associated Press, Colorado is the only state that allows medical marijuana companies to profit from selling the drug, thus the companies are governed by strict business licensing requirements, making it easier for law enforcement to locate, raid, and prosecute illegal commercial growers of marijuana.

Before the implementation of marijuana business licensing requirements in 2010, dispensaries, infused product manufacturers, and cultivators operated without oversight. Although medical marijuana users were required to register with the state, businesses that cultivated and distributed the drug were not. This made it very difficult for law enforcement to identify who was cultivating the drug legally and who wasn’t.
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Last month, the Colorado Senate Judiciary Committee amended, and delayed, the proposed “Pot DUI Bill” (HB11-1261) for the purpose of extended study. According to The Huffington Post, the Senate deliberated on the bill again earlier this week, but was shot down on a voice vote.

The original bill proposed intended to set the blood content standard for driving under the influence of marijuana. It would have allowed for the prosecution of all drivers with five nanograms or more of THC, or Tetrahydrocannabinol, in their bloodstream. The five nanograms limit is equal to the most liberal in the country. In the nation, 12 states have a zero-tolerance policy for driving under the influence of marijuana as well as any other illegal substance; Pennsylvania, Nevada, and Ohio have DUI laws that limit THC blood levels to between two and five nanograms, respectively. After objections from medical marijuana advocates concerning the actual level of impairment with five nanograms of THC in the bloodstream, the Colorado Senate postponed their decision pending further study and review. Even after its latest deliberation, the Senate could not come to an agreement.
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In 2010, the Colorado Legislature passed a bill that established regulations for its medical marijuana industry. However, according to The Gazette, many medical marijuana dispensaries were unclear on whether or not they were in compliance with the new regulations. This prompted the introduction of the current bill, the purpose of which is to elucidate the specifics of the recent laws. The planned amendments to the original bill include:

  • Removing a provision that would have extended a 1-year moratorium, or authorized suspension, on state-issued licenses to July 1, 2012 in fairness to new entrepreneurs intending to open dispensaries;
  • Allowing certain ex-convicts, with felony drug offenses that have since been downgraded to a lesser offense, to work at dispensaries in an effort to promote jobs;
  • New limits on marijuana growing operations, as well as new regulations on how it is cultivated and sold; and
  • Allowing the testing of plants to determine dosages.

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The Colorado House of Representatives recently passed a bill that would place limits on how much marijuana drivers could have in their systems and still be allowed to legally drive, according to The Denver Post.

House Bill 1261 allows police to test motorists suspected of driving under the influence of marijuana for THC, which is a component of marijuana. The bill set the limit for driving at five nanograms of THC per milliliter of blood. However, many disagree over whether that limit is too high or too low. THC levels fluctuate in the body unpredictably, and it is difficult to determine how much marijuana a user could consume and stay below the limit. Researchers say that some marijuana users who have developed a high tolerance may be sober at levels above five nanograms, while some may be unsafe to drive at much lower levels.

In 2010, the state health department analyzed over 1,500 blood samples from drivers suspected of driving while under the influence of drugs. Only 29 percent came back with a high enough level of THC to be above the limit set in the House bill.
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The Denver Post reports that the Colorado Board of Health is considering tighter restrictions regarding whether a physician who has a condition on their medical license should be permitted to recommend medical marijuana to patients. Also under consideration is how well a physician should know a patient before recommending the drug.

According to the article, the regulations proposed would require a “genuine” relationship between patients and physicians before medical marijuana is recommended. The goal is to discourage “marijuana mills,” places where doctors recommend marijuana to a patient after a brief visit. Last year, the applications of over 1,300 people applying for a medical marijuana card were rejected by health officials since their recommendations were from doctors who had license conditions. An example of a condition would be a surgeon who is banned from performing surgery after developing arthritis. The proposed rules would require a physician to have an “unrestricted, unconditioned” license before they are able to recommend marijuana.
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The Colorado Independent reports that a bill is currently in consideration in the Colorado Legislature that would set a legal limit on how much THC a motorist in the state can legally have in their blood. THC is the active ingredient in marijuana.

House Bill 1261 was introduced by representatives Mark Waller (R-Colorado Springs) and Claire Levy (D-Denver) who have stated they are pushing the bill to support current laws in the state that make it illegal for a person to drive under the influence of drugs to the extent it impairs their ability to drive. Levy clarifies, “This is just quantifying the amount of THC you can have in your blood system.”

The bill would set the bar for an individual to be charged with a DUI per se at five nanograms or more. It would also make it a misdemeanor for someone to drive while under the influence and could potentially result in the loss of their drivers’ license. According to Waller, the bill brings marijuana intoxication on par with the laws that govern alcohol.
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On March 1, the federal Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) announced that five varieties of synthetic marijuana have been added to their list of illegal drugs, reports The Denver Post.

The chemicals in synthetic marijuana, often referred to as Spice, are created in labs to create effects that are comparable to marijuana plants but are molecularly different enough that they escape being detected in urine tests. Then, the formula is sprayed on organic materials that are able to be smoked and sold in shops as “incense.”

The emergency order by the DEA makes possessing or selling products that contain any of the five popular chemical formulas for synthetic marijuana illegal for the next year. According to DEA Administrator Michelle M. Leonhart, the move was prompted due to the belief that young people are being harmed when they smoke Spice products and that they equate the legal availability of the synthetic marijuana as being safe, which the DEA believes is a wrong assumption.
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According to The Colorado Independent, a bill was recently proposed that could have outlawed medical marijuana in Colorado. However, it was pulled before it came before a committee on Thursday, February 10.

House Bill 1250 was proposed by Representative Cindy Acree (R-Aurora), who stated the bill was not a “pot brownie killer.” Lobbyists working on the bill say medical marijuana is safe in Colorado and that they will work with Acree to revise the bill to ensure it better suits her intentions. Acree has said the aim of the bill was never to do away with consumable medical marijuana products, but rather to guarantee medical marijuana would be treated as a medicine to prevent children from believing it was candy. For example, Acree wants to prevent sodas that are infused with marijuana, such as those made by Canna Catering in California, from entering Colorado.
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A Colorado pot grower who said he was growing medical marijuana in his home in Denver was recently sentenced to five years in federal prison on drug charges, reports The Denver Post.

In a plea bargain with federal prosecutors, the man plead guilty to three drug charges after his home was raided in February of 2010 and over 100 marijuana plants were found in his basement. In Colorado, the mandatory minimum sentence for having more than 100 marijuana plants is five years.

During the sentencing hearing, the judge for the case said the man failed to follow state law because of the number of plants he was growing. The man was also found to have violated the law because he grew marijuana and had never met any of the patients using it.

According to the article, the raid was prompted after the man was interviewed by KUSA-TV. Federal agents said they targeted the man because they believed he was growing more marijuana than allowed by Colorado law, and also because the man lived close to a school and had previous convictions for drug offenses.
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According to The Denver Post, the Colorado Legislature is set to consider revisions to the state’s medical marijuana laws. This comes just one year after writing the most comprehensive rules for the sale of medical marijuana in any of the 15 states in the U.S. that permit medical marijuana. House Bill 1043 is scheduled for its first committee hearing on February 3.

If passed, the bill would freeze state licenses for marijuana shops until 2012, and also make clear what physicians can recommend medical marijuana to patients. The bill would also set new rules for employees at pot shops. Marijuana shop workers are required to have resided in Colorado for two years because lawmakers do not want to allow out-of-state marijuana entrepreneurs. However, the new bill would revise this to limit the residency requirement to owners but not employees. The bill also modifies the lifetime ban on pot shop owners who have a felony drug conviction. If the bill is passed, persons with drug felonies would be exempt from getting a license from the state for just five years. Additionally, the bill would permit patients to shop at a marijuana shop immediately after filing a medical marijuana application.
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