Colorado Pot Program Nixes Caregivers' Cards

June 11, 2004

Brian D. Crecente, Rocky Mountain News

The state's medical marijuana program is revoking the caregiver certificates it issued after realizing that the law never allowed for them.

'Anyone who has a primary caregiver card, we will have to take those back,' said Dr. Ned Calonge, chief medical officer for the state of Colorado. The revocation will not affect a caregiver's right to grow up to six marijuana plants for a certified patient, Calonge stressed.

Amendment 20, passed in 2000, established in state law the use of marijuana to alleviate certain debilitating medical conditions, but limits the amount a licensed person can possess to no more than 2 ounces of usable marijuana and not more than six marijuana plants, with three or fewer being mature.

There are 376 Coloradans who have received patient certificates to use marijuana. Of that number, 214 have designated a caregiver to grow the plants.

Most caregivers have only one patient. Six caregivers list two patients each and one caregiver lists four.

Last week, three certified caregivers and one certified patient were arrested after nearly 800 pot plants were discovered in their homes, North Metro Drug Task force officials said. That case remains under investigation.

Friday's decision to revoke the caregiver certificates was made after questions raised by the Rocky Mountain News, Calonge said.

'I have pursued whether or not we can issue that certificate to the primary caregiver,' he said. 'Our current rules say we cannot.'

Administrators of the medical marijuana registry will meet Monday to discuss how to contact the certified caregivers to have them return their certificates.

They also will discuss how to replace the certificates or if it is viable to have the state board of health change its rules to allow them to create a caregiver certificate program.

If a rule change is necessary, the board also may look at limiting the number of patients one caregiver can serve, Calonge said.

The certificates were issued, he said, in an attempt to enable law enforcement to more easily identify who is legally allowed to grow marijuana.

But under the state amendment, only patients are allowed certificates.

'We do not license people to grow marijuana,' Calonge said. 'There really is supposed to be only one certificate.'

Calonge emphasized that although the caregiver certificates are not valid, it doesn't change the law.



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