A crackdown could be coming on some medical marijuana patients and caregivers in Colorado–specifically, those who are authorized to grow more than the standard number allowed by state law. According to Colorado state law, patients are able to grow 6 marijuana plants at a time, while caregivers can provide to up to 5 patients and grow up to 30 plants at a time.
Some patients are authorized to grow up to 99 plants, but an audit of those patients is now being done due to concern that some of those patients may be “distributing the excess marijuana to individuals without (medical marijuana) cards.”
In response to the audit, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment officials this week began sending out letters to doctors and medical marijuana patients, warning them that the state will now require better documentation before it authorizes patients to grow more than the standard number of plants.
The documentation will come in the form of “medical necessity” waivers from physicians, who will be required to justify the need for more medical marijuana than the state allows.
Head of the Health Department, Dr. Larry Wolk, argues that high-volume caregivers are actually “small unlicensed businesses.” He continued that caregivers who wish to provide significantly more marijuana than the state allows should apply to a commercial license. Commercial growers are allowed to produce a high volume of medical marijuana and are subject to licensing fees and background checks, both of which caregivers do not need to do. A bill to make that change is expected in the Colorado Legislature next week.
Patients who have been approved to grow an excess number of plants only account for 2% of Colorado’s medical marijuana patient pool of 111,000 registered patients. However, they are authorized to grow almost 12% of the total plants that registered medical marijuana patients are allowed to grow, with numbers topping out at 85,000 plants.
According to Health Department Spokesman Mark Salley, the new documentation requirements will apply when medical marijuana patients register with the state for the first time. They will also apply when patients are renewing their medical marijuana registrations each year.
Some medical marijuana advocates are concerned that the crackdown could have negative impacts on patients who require high-dosage in order to quell their symptoms. The crackdown could also potentially impact inventory at the state’s medical marijuana dispensaries.