Who is the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition?
Our mission is to reverse the trend of mass incarceration in Colorado. We are a coalition of nearly 7,000 individual members and over 100 faith and community organizations who have united to stop perpetual prison expansion in Colorado through policy and sentence reform.
Our chief areas of interest include drug policy reform, women in prison, racial injustice, the impact of incarceration on children and families, the problems associated with re-entry and stopping the practice of using private prisons in our state.
The Colorado State Board of Health on Wednesday approved a program through which poor medical-marijuana patients can apply to the state registry for free and not have to pay sales tax on their cannabis purchases.
But the standard the board approved for determining who is poor enough to qualify for the program upset medical-marijuana advocates, who said some indigent patients will still be stuck with a bill. And even some board members expressed frustration that the health department — which has received millions of dollars in application fees since the medical-marijuana program began — couldn't put together a program that includes more patients.
"I just think with however many millions of dollars, we could have done a better job," said board member Joelle Riddle.
The program was prompted by a bill passed in the legislature this year telling the health department to come up with a way for indigent patients to avoid paying the $90 fee when they apply to the state's medical-marijuana registry. Patients who qualify also will receive a special mark on their registry cards that shows they don't have to pay sales tax.
To determine who qualifies, the department decided to rely on other measures of indigence, such as whether the patient receives Supplemental Security Income or food stamps. Ann Hause, the department's director of legal and regulatory affairs, said the health department doesn't have the staffing to do unique evaluations of patients.
"We thought we needed to start somewhere, and this is where we decided to start," she said.
But medical-marijuana advocates said the standard misses some poor patients, including those who receive Social Security disability payments, veterans and others.
Damien LaGoy, a medical-marijuana patient with HIV, said he makes $14 a month too much to qualify for the necessary programs to receive a fee waiver. Each month, LaGoy said, rent, food, health and marijuana payments leave him with too little money left over to afford the application fee.
"In two days, my license expires," LaGoy told the State Board of Health. "I don't have the $90. I have $1.15 in my bank."
The board, on a split voice vote, approved the department's proposal but vowed to revisit the issue to see whether the standards should be expanded.