Personal Cultivation: the risks, consequences and laws.

There is a great deal of confusion about personal cultivation, medical and recreational, and there is a lot of misinformation out there. Many people believe you can do what you want because it is “constitutional.” Many others believe a “red card” with an expanded plant count allows to you cultivate whatever you are allowed. There are several overlapping state and local rules which impact personal cultivation. I write this in hopes that you and your friends will get the true facts and not the “word on the street.” It is my goal that your personal freedom and exercise of your marijuana rights do not result in any legal problems, criminal or civil. Please feel free to share this with anyone you know who could benefit from this information.

Because of the complex ways these constitutional, state, and local laws interact, I wanted to share this summary for your information so that you are as legal as you hope and believe you are in your personal cultivation. As you will see, there are numerous statutes and policies in place to regulate marijuana within the State of Colorado. However, these regulations can be met with diligent and responsible cultivation practices. There are also numerous criminal and civil risks involved in marijuana use, possession, and cultivation that you should be aware of which are included below. If you have any questions about this research or seek additional information not included below, please do not hesitate to contact our office for an appointment. You can also stay on top of these ever-changing laws by following our blog and newsfeed which contains up to the minute information about marijuana issues: www.marijuanalawscolorado.com.

Colorado State Law

Every discussion about Colorado marijuana law starts with the Colorado Constitution, which affords certain, limited medical and recreational marijuana cultivation rights.

A. Amendment 20:

In 2000, voters of the State of Colorado passed Amendment 20 to the state Constitution which effectively legalized limited amounts of medical marijuana for patients and their primary caregivers. Amendment 20 authorizes a patient who has been issued a Medical Marijuana Registry Identification Card, or that patient’s primary caregiver who has been identified on the patient’s Medical Marijuana Registry Identification Card, to possess “no more marijuana than is medically necessary to address a debilitating medical condition.” Colo. Const. art. XVIII, § 14(4)(a). The law sets a presumptive limit on the quantity of medical marijuana a single patient or caregiver may possess by limiting legal marijuana use to “no more than two (2) ounces of a usable form of marijuana; and no more than six (6) marijuana plants, with three (3) or fewer being mature, flowering plants that are producing a usable form of marijuana.” Id. Think of it like this, every one with a medical card has a chronic, debilitating medical condition and Amendment 20 presumes cultivation of 6 plants and possession of up to 2 ounces is enough for any medical marijuana patient.

Currently, primary caregivers may be listed as a “cultivating or transporting primary caregiver for no more than five patients on the medical marijuana program registry at any given time.” Colo. Rev. Stat. § 25-1.5-106(8). Patients, on the other hand, “shall have only one primary caregiver at any given time” and any patient who has “designated a primary caregiver for himself or herself may not be designated as a primary caregiver for another patient.” Id. Absent exceptional circumstances, a primary caregiver may only provide for the needs of up to 5 patients. For a primary caregiver this means the constitutionally presumptive limit for cultivation is 30 plants (6 plants x 5 patients), and 36 plants if the caregiver is also a patient. From a criminal law perspective, cultivation of 6 plants for a patient or 30 plants for a primary caregiver with 5 patients affords the patient and/or caregiver “exception to criminal law” which is a very strong legal defense.

However, should a Colorado medical marijuana patient or primary caregiver cultivate or possess more than two ounces of a usable form of marijuana or cultivate more than six plants per patient, an affirmative defense for medical necessity may apply. Pursuant to the Colorado Criminal Code, “affirmative defense” means that you can and likely will be prosecuted for felony cultivation if you cultivate more than the presumptive limits (30 plants). I know there are people who have cultivated within their red card exception limits, but do not count on “lightning striking twice in the same place.” Law enforcement has grown both more knowledgeable and aggressive in the last few years toward marijuana cultivation. This is likely in response to the lawsuit from our neighboring states for all the illegal marijuana being daily transported out of state.

Returning to the distinction between affirmative defenses and exception to criminal law. Exception to criminal law essentially means that the criminal law does not apply to your cultivation activities. An affirmative defense assumes you have committed a crime, cultivation of more than the presumptive limits, but have a legally valid excuse. One example of affirmative defense is in the case of murder. If someone breaks into your home with the intent to murder you or your family, you may be inclined to use deadly force against the intruder. If you succeed in killing the intruder, you will likely be arrested and charged with murder. At your murder trial, your attorney would raise an affirmative defense for either: (1) defense of self, (2) defense of others, or both. Colo. Rev. Stat. 18-1-706. Regardless of which affirmative defense you and your attorney choose to raise, presenting this type of defense does not negate the fact that you killed someone, but it may provide an excuse or justification to the jury for why you acted in such a manner.

Applying the affirmative defense analysis to the charge of cultivation, let us assume you are prosecuted for cultivating more than the presumptive limits (30 plants) and within the limits of your red card expanded plant court. The DA will present the case that you cultivated more than 30 plants. You will then be able to raise and prove an affirmative defense that “such amounts were medically necessary.” Under Amendment 20, patients or primary caregivers with more than two ounces of marijuana or six plants may raise an affirmative defense in court if they are charged with violating the state law but can show that the amount they possess is “medically necessary to address the patient’s debilitating medication condition.” Colo. Const. art. XVIII, § 14(2)(a). To raise this affirmative defense, a patient or primary caregiver must show: “(I) The patient was previously diagnosed by a physician as having a debilitating medical condition; (II) The patient was advised by his or her physician, in the context of a bona fide physician-patient relationship, that the patient might benefit from the medical use of marijuana in connection with a debilitating medical condition; and (III) The patient and his or her primary care-giver were collectively in possession of amounts of marijuana only as permitted under this section.” Id.

This medical necessity affirmative defense analysis starts with the doctor’s recommendation, which the doctor will be required to justify from medical treatment perspective. This will likely be difficult since the doctor will not likely recall why the recommendation was made and was likely paid more money for the recommendation, rather than recommending additional plants based on medical considerations. You should be prepared to present other evidence about how sick your patients truly are when compared to other medical patients. The key here is to make sure you only cultivate expanded plant counts for the truly ill, not a person who merely paid the doctor more money for the expanded plant count recommendation. In order to establish the medically necessity affirmative defense, you must first present some credible evidence on that issue, for example the expanded plant count recommendation. Colo. Rev. Stat. 18-1-407(1). The courts have interpreted this “credible evidence” to mean that “a properly raised affirmative defense is treated as though it were another element of [the] offense [at issue].” People v. Garcia, 113 P.3d 775, 784 (Colo. 2005). Once you establish the medical necessity affirmative defense, the DA must take on an additional burden to disprove that the affirmative defense beyond a reasonable doubt.

Under Amendment 64, an adult over 21 is permitted to cultivate 6 plants (3 in flower, 3 in vegetative state) and possess 1 oz. of usable marijuana. There are no provisions to cultivate more than 6 plants or to combine your cultivation efforts with others. This is sometimes referred to as a “collective.” This is not typically a legal arrangement and it is highly likely that the collective is diverting marijuana to the black market. It could theoretically be possible to join with a few friends and share in the costs and expenses of a cultivation room. But, it is very important to make sure that no one sells their personal marijuana to anyone and that each set of 6 plants is clearly marked by person and not strain. Should law enforcement investigate they will presume the grow is black market and prosecute each of the cultivators. Any evidence of sale (money, packaging equipment, scales, etc.) will be used to support the DA in making a case that the grow was black market.

B. Colorado Criminal Consequences:

We need to start with the premise that marijuana cultivation is illegal under Colorado law and Amendments 20 and 64 afford only defenses to criminal prosecution. I understand this statement runs contrary to popular thinking, but the criminal laws are still on the books and still vigorously prosecuted. Remember, law enforcement does not like marijuana legalization and will use every means at its disposal to prosecute personal cultivation since they are powerless to prosecute the marijuana businesses.

There are many criminal consequences you open yourself up to if you operate a greater-than-six-plant marijuana cultivation. For instance: (1) To unlawfully dispense, sell, distribute, or possess with intent to manufacture, dispense, sell, or distribute marijuana or marijuana concentrate, or to attempt to do so, is a level 1 drug felony with a mandatory minimum sentence of eight years in prison and a five thousand dollar fine if the amount of marijuana is more than fifty pounds or the amount of marijuana concentrate is more than twenty-five pounds; (2) Unlawfully cultivating, growing or producing more than 30 medical marijuana plants outside of the protections of Amendment 20 is a level 3 drug felony and carries a prison sentence of up to four years. Colo. Rev. Stat. 18-18-406(2-3). If you find yourself in one of these situations, you should contact a skilled criminal attorney immediately.

C. Recent state laws regarding expanded plant counts:

The first of two laws affecting personal cultivation deals with plant count limits regardless of where the marijuana is cultivated (at home, a warehouse, a farm, etc.). The second law affects residential cultivation. Both laws create limits on Amendment 20 and 64. Many people assert that these two laws are unconstitutional and that they have a right to cultivate whatever a doctor permits or that as recreational cultivators they can combine with others and cultivate 6 plants per person without regard to any cap on the total number of plants. Unfortunately, as discussed above, Amendment 20 and 64 do not afford a general constitutional right to cultivate marijuana. The Courts repeatedly stated that the constitutional rights afforded by Amendment 20 and 64 are only the rights to criminal defenses in the context of criminal cases. That leaves the state and local governments free to limit where, when and how much a person is able to cultivate. There have been no serious legal challenges and the current state of the law upholds these local and state cultivation limitations.

Let us begin with state cultivation limitations. Effective January 1, 2017, a new state law prohibits primary caregivers from “cultivating, transporting, or possessing more than thirty-six plants unless the primary caregiver has one or more patients who, based on medical necessity, have an extended plant count.” Colo. Rev. Stat. 25-1.5-106(8.6). A primary caregiver cultivating more than thirty-six plants must register this information with the state licensing authority’s registry. However, even with the extended plant counts, “a primary caregiver shall not cultivate more than ninety-nine plants.” Id. at (8.6)(II)(B)(b). The ninety-nine-plant limit is strictly enforced, as only medical marijuana businesses licensed and properly authorized by state and local governments may cultivate more than ninety-nine plants. Id. at (8.5)(II)(b).

Next, in an effort to prevent marijuana diversion into the illegal market, Colorado lawmakers passed House Bill 17-1220 which sets a statewide limit of twelve (12) marijuana plants per residential home. The new law, which takes effect January 1, 2018, states, “regardless of whether the plants are for medical or recreational use, it is unlawful for a person to knowingly cultivate, grow, or produce more than twelve marijuana plants on or in a residential property.” In this context, “residential property” means a single structure providing one or more independent living facilities and any land surrounding the structure that is owned in common with the structure. Residential properties may be located in, for instance, agricultural or industrial zones where there is an “independent living facility.”

Though the 12-plant limit is the new statewide maximum, exceptions are permitted for medical marijuana patients and caregivers. Patients and caregivers may grow up to twenty-four (24) plants on a residential property with proper state registration and local approval for additional plants. But local governments must approve the additional plants. Local governments are heading in the exact opposite direction and are further limiting, not expanding, residential cultivation. Be advised that if the local plant total is less than 12 or 24 plants, you must comply with the local limitation. It is not possible here to deal with all of the local regulations and it is important to look into local ordinances in order to stay compliant. The rule may be hidden in zoning rules and charts, business licensing provisions and other areas. If you have any difficulty learning about the local limitations, you should consult with qualified legal counsel to make sure you know what is expected from your local authorities. Be advised that violation of this state law can result in criminal, not just civil, prosecution including felony charges.

Federal Law

No discussion of marijuana law would be complete without a discussion about federal marijuana laws and policies. Even though the State of Colorado has decriminalized marijuana use and possession, marijuana is still illegal under federal law. According to the Controlled Substances Act (CSA), marijuana is a schedule 1 drug, making marijuana possession, distribution and use felonies with a mandatory prison sentence. For example, under the CSA possessing fifty (50) marijuana plants carries a sentence of up to five (5) years in prison. Many, many people believe that as long as you cultivate less than 100 plants it is not federally illegal or that you will not be prosecuted. That is completely untrue. Under the CSA, the federal government can prosecute you for a single joint or even a seed.

Up until this point, the federal government has opted not to enforce federal laws regarding marijuana use and possession for operations functioning under state law. However, this choice is left to the federal executive branch (headed by the President) and may be changed at any time. If the federal government chooses to enforce the CSA, it is possible that all marijuana growers and users would be subject to federal prosecution. Such a change in policy could happen with little or no warning.

If you have any questions about this research or seek additional information not included above, please do not hesitate to contact our office. Again, you can stay on top of the legal issues and any marijuana news through our blog and newsfeed: www.marijuanalawscolorado.com.

Stay legal and stay safe.

Expanded Plant Count – Proceed at your own risk!

First, marijuana, medical or otherwise, remains illegal under Colorado Criminal Law. The protections afforded by Amendment 20 and 64 are interpreted by the Court to provide for an affirmative defense to felony prosecution. Only the strictest and narrowest compliance with either Amendment 20 or 64 stand a chance of acquittal at felony trial.

I. No sales of marijuana are permitted.

At the outset it must be stated and clearly understood that there can be no sale of marijuana, medical or otherwise, except by licensed marijuana businesses under the direct supervision of the Department of Revenue, Marijuana Enforcement Division. Any sale, even a single joint, constitutes a felony to which there is no defense whatsoever. “Donations” and other devices designed to disguise the fact of a sale have proven useless. Indeed, the fraud of such a device is usually what causes the remaining defenses to fail.

A primary caregiver also cannot sell marijuana to his or her patients. A primary caregiver may only charge the cost that it takes to produce the marijuana on two ounce basis. The medical marijuana program contemplates that the primary caregiver has significant responsibility for the wellbeing of the patient and is doing this service primarily for compensation. The law only permits recouping of costs and not profit.

II. Exception to criminal law defense.

Second, a patient or primary caregiver is afforded a greater defense, “exception to criminal law,” when the person cultivates 6 plants (3 in flower and 3 in vegetative state) and possesses two ounces. All marijuana product greater than 2 ounces must be immediately destroyed. Otherwise, the person commits the felonious crime of either possession of marijuana or possession with intent to distribute marijuana. Typically both felonies are charged.

III. Medical necessity defense.

For cultivation of more than 6 plants, in this scenario 99 plants per property, the patient or primary caregiver “may raise as an affirmative defense to the charges of violation of state law that such greater amounts were medically necessary to address the patient’s debilitating medical condition.” Colorado Constitution, Article XVIII, Sec. 14(4)(b). This is a medically based affirmative defense in which the Defendant is required to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that:

(1) he/she suffers from a chronic, debilitating medical condition;
(2) that greater than 6 plants cannot possibly address the seriousness of the medical condition; and
(3) that the doctor who made this recommendation did so based on careful application of medical judgment in the context of a bonafide patient- physician relationship.

This defense is almost always a complete fraud and the doctors who provide such expanded plant count recommendations do so only for an additional fee. Again, premising a defense on a foundation of medical fraud almost invariably results in conviction.

In my numerous meetings where such ideas are discussed, I typically state that “all people who qualify for medical marijuana are presumptively disabled. In order to justify an additional plant count, you would have to prove that you were more profoundly disabled than all of the other disabled patients who qualify for a medical marijuana recommendation. For instance, if I have chronic back pain, I take ibuprofen. If I have Stage 5 cancer, I have a morphine drip. The expanded plant count is the equivalent of a morphine drip and the medical condition must be commensurate with Stage 5 cancer.”

The response I usually get is “I make edibles.” I respond “there is no choice of consumption defense. And, the police know that edibles are made with trim. They also know that a competent grower gets approximately 1 pound per plant. Accordingly, even if you make edibles, 6 plants is more than sufficient. So, the assumption is that you sell marijuana for a living.” As stated before, only strict compliance with Amendment 20 or 64 has a chance of success a trial. If the police discovery cash, substantial quantities of marijuana, evidence of sales (typically people are using their smart phones or computers to transact the marijuana making proof of criminal activity quite simple) or any other indicia of distribution, then even a perfect medical necessity defense would fail. I have had numerous such instances.

IV. Law enforcement crackdown and cooperation with federal agencies.

Also, the police are under tremendous pressure to stop the hundreds of pounds of marijuana leaving the state each day. The fact that such copious quantities of marijuana leave the state each day has resulted in lawsuits from our neighboring states and there is now lock step cooperation with federal law enforcement to which there is no defense whatsoever to federal criminal prosecution. I have worked on several cases in which local law enforcement was working with the Attorney General, who was working with the United States Attorney General, DEA and the IRS (for tax evasion of an illegal enterprise).

V. Landlord liability and civil forfeiture.

Next, the question of prosecution and forfeiture for landlords must be addressed. At the outset, the crime of cultivation includes both the cultivation itself, as well as permitting a property owned by a person to be used for such purposes. CRS 18-18-406(3). There is also a likely charge of conspiracy if the landlord is aware and permits the cultivation. CRS 18-2-201. That means the landlord is jointly responsible for any and all crimes committed at the property. Civil forfeiture of the property is quite common and often is handled by federal authorities. The only defense to forfeiture is the “innocent owner” defense in which the landlord does not know, nor have any reason to know about the marijuana activities. I have had cases dismissed only to have the property contemporaneously seized by federal authorities.

Medical Marijuana and Probation

Well, it finally came to pass. On February 2, 2012, the Colorado Court of Appeals issued a decision on the use of medical marijuana on probation. Unfortunately, the Court of Appeals determined that probations CANNOT use medical marijuana while on probation. The case, People v. Watkins, 2012CA15, was decided on the basis that a probationer cannot violate any law during probation.

The Court of Appeals reasoned that the phrase “cannot violate any law during probation” includes violation of federal law. As you should all know by now, any use, possession, sale, or cultivation of marijuana, medical or otherwise, continues to be a violation of federal criminal law.

It is curious that the Court of Appeals fell back on federal criminal law to resolve this question. The Colorado state courts, including the Court of Appeals, do not have the authority to enforce federal criminal law. It would seem that, in order to rely on federal criminal law, it would be necessary to have a contemporaneous federal criminal case.

Additionally, it stands to reason that Colorado courts are limited to enforcing Colorado criminal laws. As you know, Amendment 18/20 creates an exception to criminal law where patients and/or their primary caregivers are acting within the parameters of the Amendment. Probation is a creature of Colorado criminal law. As such, it is arguable that the Colorado court cannot impose any restrictions on compliant medical marijuana activities as a condition of probation – again, a creature of Colorado criminal law.

It appears that things are going to get worse before they get better for medical marijuana patients. Colorado courts are now relying on federal law to justify their limitations on medical marijuana activities, rather than enforcing Colorado laws using Colorado statutes and constitutional amendments. I suggest you contact your U.S. congress person and U.S. senator to let them know that a federal change is needed if Colorado medical marijuana laws are to have any meaning or protection.

amending applications

In view of the rapid, changing circumstances for MMJ businesses, the Department of Revenue is permitting applicants to amend their applications in the following situations:

Replacing a cultivation location with a new cultivation location (filing an amended appendix A) to the original application. I suspect that another OPC fee must be tendered along with the new Appendix A;
Adding/deleting managers, members, shareholders. New keyperson applications must also be tendered;
Transferring or selling the business assets (internal changes to an LLC or corporation, including transferring all stock/ownership of that entity); or
Increasing or decreasing the size of the proposed premises.

This list is not exhaustive and amendment may (or may not) be permitted in other situations.

Next, you must first seek local approval for any of the above-changes to your business. Also, you may only amend the application if:

1) You were operating an established, locally approved business on July 1, 2010, (or you had an application on file by July 1, 2010, which was subsequently approved), and;

2) You filed the required applications and fees with the Department of Revenue on or before August 1, 2010; and

3) On or before September 1, 2010, you certified that you were growing at least 70% of the medical marijuana necessary for your operation.

Mr. Cook advises that continued operation of a medical marijuana business or without meeting all three of these conditions is in violation of 12-43.3-901(1)(c) and 12-43.3-901(1)(d) C.R.S. This means that if you were late with your 9/1/10 certification, you are no longer permitted to continue to operate while your application is pending and must submit an entirely new application.

Employees: felons, under 21, and out of state residents

As most of you know, the state prohibits people under 21, drug sale related felons and out of state residents from owning MMCs. The state also requires employees to “pass a criminal background check.” The question arises – does the drug felon, under 21 and out of state resident standards for owners apply equally to non-owner employees? At this point, the answer is yes. First, CRS 12-43.3.-101 et seq. prohibits employees under the age of 21 working in any capacity. Second, in speaking with Mr. Matt Cook, he advised that the “no drug sale felony” rule will be applied equally to non-owner employees. While the standard “pass a criminal background check” is vague, Mr. Cook believes (at least for the moment) that the felony issues are the same for owners and employees. Finally, Mr. Cook also states that the out-of-state resident, i.e., two years, applies equally to non-owner employees. Again, CRS 12-43.3-101 et seq. only states that employees must be state residents, Mr. Cook believes the two year standard applies. Perhaps several dozen letters might change his mind?

City of Boulder requires license for grow and retail

The City of Boulder elected to require seperate licenses for both the OPC (grow operation) and retail operations of a MMC. Be warned that is is not enough to submit a MMC business license application for the retail side of the business. Also, if you added the grow after June 18, you are required to submit the application for the grow by 8/31/10. Of course, if you had both the grow and retail in operation before June 18, you may submit both applications on or before 10/31/10. Please be advised that it appears that priority for location (i.e., within 500 ft. of three other MMCs) will be allotted based on date of submission of the application, not date of operation. This is not final, but you should get your application in a.s.a.p.

7/1/10 or 7/1/11? Which is it?

Confusion continues to guide the MMJ industry. Many of you have attended presentations by Mr. Matt Cook, the head of the state’s MMJ business regulation division. At these presentations, Mr. Cook repeatedly states that the bill goes into effect on 7/1/11 and that local regulations apply until then. I have spoken with many MMJ business people who take this information as the gospel truth and intend to continue with their businesses in their current form until 7/1/11. Many such businesses are “grow only” or “retail only” operations that have been locally approved (or not). Many are owned by people who have not resided in the state for two years, have a felony drug conviction or a felony conviction less than five years old or all three. In my discussions and correspondence with Mr. Cook (see prior blogs), it appears that continued operation of a MMJ business without strict compliance with HB1284 until 7/1/11 could be a serious problem.

Let’s examine the idea that you have until 7/1/11 to comply with HB1284. If the bill does not take effect until 7/1/11, is there any requirement to apply to the state by 8/1/10? Can you refuse to pay the $7500-$18,000 application fee until July 2011? When you list your optional grow premises, can you tell the state that you plan to get around to it before July 2011? When you list a drug felon or out-of-state resident as an owner or employee on your application, will you be able to address this issue sometime before 7/1/11. Finally, when you certify, under penalty of perjury, on 9/1/10 that you are growing 70% of your own MMJ, can you tell the state that you are planning on doing this, but currently are buying all of the MMJ from various growers?

The point of this exercise is to point out that compliance with HB1284 appears to be immediate. If it were otherwise, none of the provision of HB1284 would apply, including the 8/1/10 application, the license/application fee, the 9/1/10 certification, etc.

Based on the information we received from Mr. Cook and our reading of HB1284, we suggest immediate compliance with HB1284. If you follow this advice, the worst that can happen is that you ran an HB1284 compliant business for one year longer than necessary. However, if you defer your compliance until July1, 2011, you may find that your application is denied or, worse, that you may face criminal prosecution for operating a business without the benefit of HB1284 protection. In our view, it is better to be safe than sorry.

Post 7/1/10, the hangover from Black Thursday

Well, it was one hell of a tough road getting from the enactment of HB1284 through “Black Thursday.” All of you who hustled to get their businesses in order are amazing, resourceful, ingenious people and I am proud to represent you.

Now that it is 7/2, I want to make clear the following points:

1. You must be growing and selling only your own MMJ. The 9/1/10 certification does not act as an extension of the deadline for this requirement. Late last night I received clarification from Mr. Matt Cook that the effective date for growing and selling your own MMJ is 7/1/10. Do not jeopardize your hard work by purchasing MMJ from any one other than another established MMC, which has local approval for both its grow and retail operations. Don’t take any one’s word for their own legality – do your own due diligence.
2. Do not continue employing any people with drug felonies, concerning criminal histories (lots of misdemeanors, less-than felony drug convictions, etc.), people with a felony within five years of completing the sentence or anyone who has not been a Colorado resident for two years prior to 7/1/10 (see, prior blogs).
3. Do not operate your business at all unless you are locally approved and/or have applied for local approval for both the grow and retail aspects of your business. If you are a MIP, you can only continue operating if you have local approval/applied for local approval. If your MIP does not grow its own MMJ or you do not have local approval/applied for local approval for growing your own MMJ, you must have a written contract for purchase of MMJ with an established MMC. Please note that the MMC must be locally approved/applied for local approval for both the grow and retail aspects of its business in order to be able to sell 30% of its MMJ to your business. You may contract with up to 5 such businesses.
4. After 7/1/10, the MMC can only possess 2 ounces and grow 6 plants for the number of patients who have assigned the MMC as their “primary center.” As stated in previous blogs, you must convert all patients who have assigned any of the persons associated with your business to be their primary caregiver over to the MMC as their primary center. Use the state’s Change of Primary Caregiver form (there is not MMC primary center assignment form yet available) and make sure to properly complete, notarize and mail to the Department of Health and Department of Revenue, attn. Mr. Matt Cook, certified mail/return receipt requested. Remember – if you have zero patients who have assigned the MMC as their primary center, you may possess zero ounces of MMJ and may cultivate zero plants.
5. You should download the newly minted Dept. of Health patient application for use in acquiring new patients or use the Change of Primary Caregiver forms to assign current patients at the time of sale of MMJ from your MMC. You do not need to continue using any “temporary caregiver” forms (which were never legal anyway, see prior blogs). The forms may be downloaded from: http://www.cdphe.state.co.us/hs/medicalmarijuana/forms.html.
6. Begin preparing for the 8/1/10 Department of Revenue MMC/MIP application and save a substantial amount of money for the as-yet undisclosed application and license fees.
7. Please keep careful and accurate records regarding both your cultivation and sale of MMJ. Remember, the state’s microscope for your business will be applied beginning on 7/1/10!
8. For all of the primary caregivers – you must only have five patients, must provide other caregiving services (see prior blogs) and charge only the cost of producing the MMJ. You must notify the Department of Revenue who the five patients are that you intend to continue as their primary caregiver and give notice that you are no longer willing to act as the primary caregiver for the remaining patients. List all of the patients accordingly. Send the letter certified mail, return receipt requested.

Stay legal and stay safe. Please contact us with any questions

The course of MMJ business over the last year

Over the last year, we have seen an explosion in the MMJ business. At first, it was a few brave souls who simply undertook to provide medicine to a few patients without regard to profit or large scale operations. However, once the Obama adminstration announced that MMJ would not be a federal law enforcement priority, a great many people began exploring the MMJ business. Unfortunately, most of the entrepeneurs were advised, not by my office, that the MMJ business was a “grey area” and that you could do virtually anything you want as long as the MMJ is sold to patients. This was not the case and there was little or no legal protection for these businesses. As a result, the primary business model was acquiring a few patients to justify a commercial grow operation primarily in residences or in places unknown to local governments. The MMJ was then sold wholesale to dispensaries. Selective prosecution by law enforcement gave these growers and dispensaries a feeling of relative safety in their MMJ business activities.

Quickly, the MMJ business was booming and Westword magazine capitalized by permitting large scale advertising of this fledling industry. A few business were blatant in catering to “recreational patients” and adopted names like “Dr. Reefer.” The Denver Post then got into the act by taking an active role in criticizing the MMJ industry, including by referring to dispensaries as “pot shops” and publishing photographs of young people smoking marijuana. This created a public perception of MMJ as a front for recreational drug use. The legislature quickly responded with threats to eliminate the MMJ industry with the help of law enforcement.

In the following months, many attempts to create regulations for the MMJ industry were attempted and a rash of local moratoriums on MMJ businesses were enacted. A long and arduous process soon followed. From the outset, the legislature made clear that responsible and tightly regulated businesses would be the only survivors.

In the spring, various drafts of the proposed regulations were completed and it was clear that commercial growing and wholesale sales of MMJ would be prohibited. However, the growers were advised, again not by my office, that the regulations would not pass and that business as usual would be fine. This was not the case.

In May, HB1284 was completed and required a single business, the Medical Marijuana Center, was created. The MMC was required to grow and sell all of its own medicine and the commercial grower was legally eliminated. This wreaked havoc in the MMJ business community, as the grower businesses far out numbered the retail businesses. Felons and out of state residents were also eliminated creating further havoc in the industry.

Now comes “black thursday,” July 1, which is the effective date of HB1284. All businesses must be locally approved for both the grow and retail aspects of the MMC in order to continue operating after July 1. “Shotgun weddings” of growers and dispensaries are occurring in a matter of days or hours as people struggle to comply with the July 1 deadline. In many cases, these business marriages are doomed to fail. I predict law enforcement will ramp up its efforts to squash out non-compliant businesses and less than half of the existing MMJ businesses will survive. The final chapter of this story will be written over the next several months. Let us hope that the patients are not the ones who suffer along with the fate of the businesses that support them.

7/1/10 “Black Thursday”

Try as I might, I cannot possibly get to all of you before Thursday (I have tried!). Accordingly, I am writing this blog in an effort to address various issues that appear common to most MMJ business people.

1. 7/1/10 is the effective date for all MMJ businesses going forward. I understand that Mr. Matt Cook has told some of you that you have until 7/1/11 to comply. This is not the case. I have spoken with Mr. Cook and corresponded with him on several occassions. In his correspondence he makes clear that your MMC and/or MIP application will be evaluated using the 7/1/10 date. For those of you seeking to add a retail or add a grow after 7/1/10, Mr. Cook advises that both aspects of the MMC must be locally approved on or before 7/1/10.
2. There is no one year state moratorium. However, there is a defacto moratorium in that you cannot operate after 7/1/10 unless you were “established”/locally approved for both the grow and retail location(s) before 7/1/10. Otherwise, you cannot operate until both local and state approval are obtained.
3. Hash is going to be considered an “infused product.” The distinction provided by Mr. Cook is that green stuff in a bag is for MMCs, everything else is for MIPs.
4. There can be no deliveries except in the narrow circumstances provided in HB1284.
5. One grow can supply a MMC with multiple locations and common ownership.
6. One grow cannot supply MMJ to mulitiple MMCs not wholly and commonly owned by the same people. NO INDEPENDENT CONTRACTOR GROWS NO MATTER WHAT ANYONE IS TELLING YOU!!!
7. The residency, “no felony w/i five years of completion of sentence” and “no felony drug convictions ever” standards apply for owners, employees and managers of the MMC. The criminal background issues apply equally to investors.
8. The 70/30 rule applies on 7/1/10 and the certification is due 9/1/10. Again, in evaluating your application and 70/30 certification, the state will look back to 7/1/10.
9. MIPs must be locally approved by 7/1/10 to be considered established under HB1284 even if there is no such licensing procedure locally available.
10. The MIP may, but is not required to, grow its own MMJ using a locally approved OPC or may contract, in writing, with up to 5 MMCs to purchase the MMJ for use in making the products. The MIP MMJ cannot be resold to any other business or person, but the MIP can sell its products to any MMC.

I know how hard it is out there. Better to be on the sideline and do it right, then be further down the road doing it wrong. Remember, doing it wrong can result in delay, denial, permanent bar from future MMJ business or removal of any protection from criminal prosecution.

Stay legal, stay safe.