Medical marijuana advocates walked away from a 12-hour Board of Health hearing yesterday hooting and hollering over the fact that the board preserved rights already afforded to medical marijuana patients.
The nine-member board’s 5-4 vote came after a marathon of testimony from opponents of the health department’s proposal to limit so-called caregivers to five patients and require them to perform “significant” care for their patients, including far-reaching services like cleaning patients’ houses and picking up groceries.
But with nearly 200 speakers taking to the microphone in favor of current medical marijuana laws set by voters in 2000, the board ultimately voted in favor of medical marijuana advocates.
The usual stereotypes associated with marijuana users went up in smoke yesterday, as the crowd came well-dressed in suits and ties — they even left their demonstration signs at the door. Despite pleas from organizers to “be on your best behavior,” some, however, let emotion get the best of them as they occasionally hissed and booed at supporters. Overall, though, the meeting yesterday was a demonstration of democracy at its best, on both the part of the board and the public.
The throngs of more than 500 advocates — including lawyers, patients, caregivers, war veterans and doctors — gathered at the Auraria Campus and spoke one after the other of the harmful affect the new rules would have on their and their patients’ lives. It was the largest health department hearing in history.
Damien LaGoy, an HIV and Hepatitis C patient, said the new rules would force him to the street to find marijuana, which helps him fight nausea caused by the plethora of medications he takes to keep him alive.
“Imagine what happens to me if all 100 pounds of me goes looking for marijuana on Colfax Avenue?” LaGoy asked the Board of Health.
He was named as a plaintiff in a 2007 lawsuit filed against the state for imposing similar rules. District Judge Larry Naves ruled at the time that the state had imposed the new rules illegally by not holding public hearings, and that the state had made a “capricious decision” to enact the rules. Naves’ decision is what brought the board to hold a public hearing yesterday. Opponents of the proposed rule changes cheered the twist of fate in their direction.
LaGoy said it would be difficult for him to find a caregiver if they were all capped at five patients. He said his apartment is too small for him to grow himself, and he’s often too sick to grow.
Despite losing once before, state health officials still attempted to pass the new rules, bringing to the hearing yesterday a handful of law enforcement officials who support the change.