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Public Roundtable: Medical Marijuana in Summit County: Therapy or Threat?

February 11, 7-9 pm at the Summit Community and Senior Center.

Summit County medical marijuana discussion leads to talk of legalization

Summit Daily Article, Robert Allen

February 16, 2010

FRISCO — A lively public discussion on medical marijuana recently reflected the belief that, regardless of personal opinion, society is becoming more accepting of the drug — and statewide legalization is no pipe dream.

“We kind of follow the trends of the state of California,” Summit County Sheriff John Minor said.

California has a ballot initiative to legalize recreational marijuana set for this fall. Minor said that if it passes, Colorado could follow.

About 35 local residents including doctors, marijuana dispensary owners, law enforcement and more attended Thursday's Our Future Summit roundtable conversation on medical marijuana at the Summit County Community and Senior Center in Frisco.

Topics ranged from regulation of medical marijuana to the drug's history and societal norms.

Susan Westhof with Summit Prevention Alliance — a community organization that promotes health and preventing drug abuse — said the community should consider the effect marijuana's public acceptance has on children.

She said she asked some kids how they would describe the community and they replied, “Potheads.”

“Of course they want to make pot legal because it gets you high. It's fun. Kids were saying ‘Go Breckenridge...'” she said of the town of Breckenridge's marijuana decriminalization.

Others said marijuana is hurting the tourism-based community's reputation.

Jerry Olson, owner of Medical Marijuana of the Rockies in Frisco, said the new law could attract “families friendly in the cannabis concept.”

Another dispensary owner said it's the responsibility of parents as well as the community to teach kids about drugs.

Regulating a psychoactive plant as medicine

Though the Colorado General Assembly is drafting legislation to regulate medical marijuana, Minor said the highly restrictive, dispensary-closing regulations law enforcement recommended won't likely be approved.

He said that as an example of changes in “societal norms,” there was once a policy that if a person had ever used illegal drugs, he or she couldn't be a cop.

“Now we're asking people if they haven't done it in the past two years to not do it,” Minor said.

The Sheriff's Office has dealt with a mess of complications since medical marijuana began to proliferate — such as wasting taxpayer dollars investigating grow operations that turned out to be legal. There's also the issue of dispensaries buying product from the black market.

“I'm a big believer in the will of the people just like most of the people in this room,” Minor said. “But we've got to have some rules.”

Some doctors find the lack of regulation troubling as well.

Dr. David Gray, a local physician, said the it's difficult to identify the definition of “severe pain” as a medical-marijuana-worthy condition.

“It's hard to say (to a patient), ‘Your pain is not severe,'” he said.

Gray said that while a young person may feel severe pain from a cut on the head, there are war veterans who could keep stoic with a broken leg.

He also said it's unusual for a physician to “recommend” rather than “prescribe” a drug, as medical marijuana patients need only a doctor's recommendation.

Olson said that language is used to protect doctors from federal prosecution.

“It's federally illegal to prescribe a schedule I drug,” he said.

Effects on the ill and black-market villains

Thursday's discussion included a few testimonies to the drug's potential benefits as an alternative to pills.

One woman said that when she first moved to the county, she saw it as a “very druggie society,” but with alcohol even more widely promoted.

She said that when her husband became ill last fall, he was given a recommendation for medical marijuana.

“It was such a comfort for him,” she said, becoming tearful as she added that he died in November.

Howard Hallman, the discussion's mediator, took two polls of the people in the room.

When he asked whether anybody would prefer no dispensaries in the county, nobody raised a hand. One woman said she didn't want people dispensing marijuana on her residential block.

When Hallman asked whether people agree regulations are needed, nearly everyone raised hands.

Regarding marijuana prohibition, Frisco resident and former mayor Bernie Zurbriggen said the black market is dangerous.

“If there's a villain, it's the drug dealer,” he said. “He doesn't care if you're sick or well. He's got other stuff in his back pocket that's more expensive and more addictive ... If we legalize, this state would get well economically. It would be almost overnight.”

Robert Allen can be contacted at (970) 668-4628 or rallen@summitdaily.com


























Our Future Summit is a program of The Greenlands Reserve

 Howard Hallman, President