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DENVER - The first statewide attempt to try to regulate Colorado's medical marijuana industry has passed at the State Capitol.
The Senate Health and Human Services Committee held a hearing on the bill aimed at preventing doctors from issuing medical marijuana recommendations to recreational users. It passed around 1:30 p.m. in a 6-1 vote and may go to the Senate floor by Friday.
Under the proposal, doctors have to give medical marijuana patients a physical exam and provide follow up care. Those under 21 need to get the approval of two doctors.
Medical marijuana advocates were divided on Sen. Chris Romer's proposal. Many dispensary owners say they are on board with regulations if they give them uniform guidelines and avert a more severe crackdown like one approved this week in Los Angeles. Hundreds of Los Angeles pot shops face closure after the City Council voted Tuesday to cap the number of dispensaries in the city at 70.
But others feared that requiring follow up visits could cost patients hundreds of extra dollars a year on top of the $90 annual fee they pay to register as a medical marijuana user.William Chengelis said he can't get his regular Veterans Administration doctors to sign off on medical marijuana and said buying pot illegally and paying the $100 fine would be cheaper than paying a private doctor for follow-up visits.
"I cannot afford this bill," Chengelis told lawmakers.
Patients, doctors and advocates against the measure gathered Wednesday morning to voice their opposition. About 50 people with the Sensible Patient and Provider Coalition lined the steps of the State Capitol urging legislatures to think of the patients first.
They said this issue is not about the legalization of medical marijuana but instead about patients' rights. Aside from the increase in costs, they say the proposal would infringe on their constitutional rights
"Well, it's going to have a severe impact on patients. Patients should be no more restricted in obtaining their medical marijuana than filling a prescription at the pharmacy of their choosing," Dan Pope, who has Muscular Dystrophy, said at the rally. "And inside right now they are going to be talking about placing restrictions on doctors, making it more difficult for them to provide recommendations to patients like myself that really need it."