Medical marijuana advocates thought they were in the clear following the public hearing, but it appears health officials are not done looking for ways to limit the registry.
This time, however, they have their eyes set on doctors authorizing the applications, as opposed to caregivers who supply the patients.
Mark Salley, spokesman for the health department, said it is too premature to discuss strategies being discussed to increase oversight. But he added that there is reason to be concerned.
“When we have a situation — such as the one that was testified to at the Board meeting, when a single doctor had signed up 200 patients in a single day for the marijuana registry — it makes us be concerned about potential abuse of the registry,” he said.
Faulty statistics cited
Health officials stated at the public hearing last month that the average age of medical marijuana patients is 24 years old. But when asked by board members for actual data because there was conflicting statistics, the evidence was unavailable.
Vicente says his organization has examined the data and has found the average age of medical marijuana patients to be 41 years old.
“It’s unbelievable, these people are full of this,” said Vicente. “We were trying to get that, we were shocked, we were like, ‘How could it possibly have dropped to 24?’ Statistically that was crazy, and ultimately it was untrue, it was a falsehood furthered by the health department.”
Health officials said their false testimony was the result of a “computer error.”
Statistics released by the health department indicate that from July 2008 through June, 1,792 registry cards were issued to men under age 30, of which 89 percent had the diagnosis of severe pain. They say the “young males” represent 22 percent of all applications received during that time.
During the last six months of 2008 there was an average of 70 applications per month for men under age 30 with severe pain; in May there were 264 such applications; and in June there were 364.
Attempt to limit registry?
Vicente says he is concerned that health officials are still attempting to limit the registry, which would lead to patients struggling to find care. He points out that more than 900 doctors have written authorizations for medical marijuana.
“It’s Sensible Colorado’s belief that the vast majority of these recommendations are valid,” said Vicente. “Hopefully (health officials) won’t take any action that would lead to less people using the program and infringe on the doctor-patient relationship in any way.”