In the past 2 1/2 months, my attitude toward medical-marijuana dispensaries has evolved from one of skepticism to cautious acceptance. Just because the voters who passed Amendment 20 a decade ago didn't envision the existence of dispensaries (which are nowhere mentioned in the amendment or even implied) doesn't mean that such outlets aren't a reasonable way to supply patients with a pain-killing drug.
Attorney General John Suthers told The Denver Post last month that even before the mushrooming appearance of dispensaries last year, patients in need of pain relief were satisfied with their access to medical marijuana. The alleged proof: The state health department never received a single complaint.
Yet that claim depends on your definition of "complaint." A spokesman for the health department (who defends the pre-dispensary system) recently told me, "We have always had questions from people asking whether we knew how to obtain marijuana or whether we could give them a list of suppliers. We have always told them that we did not know."
Those inquiries might not have been complaints, but they signaled a supply issue. And they presumably came from people who'd applied for a medical marijuana permit, not those who never bothered because they had no inkling where to acquire the drug.
Either the explosion of cannabis patients since last summer represents nothing more than an epidemic of fraud (Suthers' position, in a nutshell), or the previous delivery system suppressed demand among at least some suffering patients. I'd rather let 1,000 liars exploit the system than deny relief to a few victims, say, of pancreatic cancer.