Durango Herald News, Attorney general advocates control of dispensaries
Colorado Attorney General John Suthers said Tuesday he supports pending legislation that would allow local governments to opt out of allowing medical marijuana dispensaries.
He also defended his decision to join a national lawsuit challenging the new federal health-care reform law, and opposed Arizona's new immigration law.
Suthers made his positions known during a meeting with The Durango Herald's editorial board. He was in Grand Junction on Monday to launch the Colorado Meth Project, a new campaign aimed at deterring youths from trying methamphetamine. Suthers, a Republican, is seeking re-election against Democrat Stan Garnett, Boulder County district attorney.
Nothing in Amendment 20 - the medical marijuana law voters narrowly approved in 2000 - authorized dispensaries or the commercial sale of medical marijuana, Suthers said. Rather, it allowed patients with debilitative conditions to grow marijuana or obtain it from caregivers who have “significant responsibility for the welfare of the patient," he said.
House Bill 1284, which passed 39-23 and is pending in the state Senate, would allow local governments to forbid marijuana dispensaries by a vote of a city council, county commission or local voters.
“I really feel that's appropriate, because I think that the people ought to have a crack at whether we want these dispensaries, because they did not vote for that in 2000," Suthers said.
During the last 18 months - since Obama became president - the marijuana registry has grown from 2,000 names to 100,000 names, with a “big, huge backlog," Suthers said. In other words, about 2 percent of the state's population now holds a medical marijuana card.
While Suthers supports tougher regulations on medical marijuana dispensaries, he supported lower penalties for simple drug addicts, with the exception of meth. The judiciary is not sending people to prison for first- or second-time drug use and possession offenses, and the state doesn't want to send drug addicts to prison unless their drug activity is leading to other crimes, he said.