COLORADO SPRINGS — Alan Gallegos crushed a pinch of marijuana into a vaporizer, then slowly inhaled through a tube.
The marijuana vapor eases the pain from bone spurs in Gallegos' back, quells his nausea and levels out the mood swings from his bipolar disorder.
"It's worked better than any pill I've ever taken," Gallegos said. "I've been a lot better ever since."
More than eight years after Colorado voters approved the use of medical marijuana for patients like Gallegos, who suffer from debilitating medical conditions, the issue has again taken center stage. The state is seeking to crack down on caregiver/patient ratios at the same time federal officials are debating whether to continue raiding med-pot dispensaries in states that allow them.
Against that backdrop are the numbers: Colorado's medical marijuana registry has swelled to nearly 5,000 patients. In just the last year, the number of patients registering to use the drug more than doubled.
State officials say they are seeing more cases of forgery within the registry system, and they are concerned that some caregivers who are supposed to have "significant responsibility" for patients now are juggling more than 200 people.