DENVER - Colorado's chief medical officer, police officers and prosecutors urged health officials Monday to limit the
state's medical marijuana providers to five patients each, saying the current system - which has no limits - is causing
confusion about who legally can grow marijuana and is susceptible to fraud.
Medical marijuana users and their supporters, who packed a hearing before the state health board, said the rule
changes would make it harder for people who need the drug to get it legally.
Dr. Ned Calonge, Colorado's chief medical officer, said the program will "continue to grow out of control" unless
more restrictive rules are adopted.
Currently, a voter-approved amendment to the state constitution allows designated caregivers to grow marijuana for an
unlimited number of patients. Patients registered with the state after getting a doctor's recommendation to use
medical marijuana also can grow up to six marijuana plants for themselves. However, many patients say they don't have
the money or the expertise to produce a good crop.
Calonge, chief medical officer for the state health department, said some dispensaries, which have sprouted up to
serve the growing number of medical marijuana patients, also have been forging documents claiming that registered
patients have asked for them to be their caregivers. He said the 2000 law passed by voters defines caregivers as
people who have "significant responsibility to managing the well-being of a patient," and he doesn't think that
allows for the creation of dispensaries to supply patients.
Calonge also said one doctor recommended that 200 people get medical marijuana cards in one day even though he said
it would be impossible for a physician to see that number of people.
Law-enforcement officials and prosecutors also testified in favor of the rule change, one of five changes to the
program being considered but by far the most controversial. One of the others would require signatures on
applications to be notarized.
Helen Morgan, an assistant district attorney in Denver, said authorities have encountered large marijuana growing
operations that claim to be providing medical marijuana. She said some counties aren't prosecuting such operators and
some are because of confusion about who's allowed to grow medical marijuana.
The vast majority of the approximately 350 people who packed into an auditorium on the Auraria Campus opposed the
five-person limit. Lawyers argued that the board had no authority to meddle with a law passed by voters and promised
to sue if the board approved them.
Patients worried they wouldn't be able to find a legal supply of medical marijuana if providers are limited to
serving only five people. They also argued that it would be safer if marijuana growing happened in fewer, large-scale
operations rather than many small plantings.
There are currently 9,112 people registered to use medical marijuana in Colorado, up 2,000 joined just in the last
At that rate, Ron Hyman, the state health department registrar who oversees the medical marijuana registry, predicted
15,000 people would be signed up by the end of the year. He credited the growth in Colorado's program to the
confidentiality of its registry and to the Obama administration's announcement that it would no longer raid medical
The board is expected to vote on whether to adopt the changes at the end of public testimony.