On Wednesday, the Colorado State Board of Health approved a new program that would provide a sales tax exemption on the purchase of medical marijuana for the states poorer patients.
However, advocates and some board members have expressed outrage over the program because many of the states indigent patients still will not qualify for relief. With the millions of dollars the program has collected in fees, they are upset that the program could not include more patients.
"I just think with however many millions of dollars, we could have done a better job," said Joelle Riddle, member of the board of health.
The new program was in response to the legislature’s passage of a bill earlier this year. The bill requires that the health department to find a way to provide free enrolment into the states medical marijuana program for indigent patients, normally $90 per year, and that the cards be marked as “exempt” from sales taxes.
According to Ann Hause, the department’s director of legal affairs, the department does not have the staffing to process the applications to determine who qualifies for the program. Therefore, they are using enrollment in existing programs such as Supplemental Security Income or food stamps, but advocates say the measure would not include other indigent patients including, but not limited to, those who receive Social Security Disability or Veterans Administration benefits.
"We thought we needed to start somewhere, and this is where we decided to start," said Hause.
|HIV Patient Damien LaGoy|
A medical marijuana patient suffering from HIV, Damian LaGoy, said that after rent, food, health and marijuana expenses he could not afford the application fee. LaGoy’s current income is $14 to high to receive help from the state.
"In two days, my license expires," LaGoy said to the State Board of Health. "I don't have the $90. I have $1.15 in my bank."
On a split vote, the board approved the department's proposal but vowed to examine the standards to see whether or not they should be expanded.
Many of the advocates believe that this is just another case of a compassionate legislature trying to do right by patients and the bureaucracy that is the Colorado State Board of Health, trying to undermine their decrees.
Since voters passed Amendment 20 in 2000, with all of the medical research in the last 10 years that shows marijuana to be beneficial in treating numerous diseases, the Colorado State Board of Health has refused to approve any new conditions for treatment with marijuana. The original eight conditions – cancer, HIV/AIDS positive, severe pain, severe nausea, glaucoma, cachexia, seizures and persistent muscle spasms – are still the only ailments approved for treatment.
This shows you the board’s opinion of medical marijuana.