Since June 1, 2001, when Coloradoâ€™s Department of Public Health and Environment began the Medical Marijuana Registry program, 99,559 new patient applications have been received. Of these applicants, 95,477 patients currently hold valid registry identification cards.
For the first time since the Registry opened, patients are worried about their privacy.
On Jan. 18, the Cannabis Therapy Institute, CTI, issued a press release saying they had submitted a petition for emergency rules to protect patient privacy after hearing the Department of Revenue planned to replace the current confidential patient registry with a non-confidential database and surveillance system.
â€œThere would be no point in having a medical marijuana registry if the information isnâ€™t confidential,â€ said Lara Kriho, director of the Cannabis Therapy Institute. â€œThereâ€™s a lot of stigma and discrimination attached to being a medical marijuana user. Patients face discrimination in their jobs, in their housing and in social services.â€
The surveillance system would consist of up to 16,000 cameras in medical marijuana centers and along with the patient database, would be viewable by federal and state law enforcement.
According to an earlier release sent by the Patient and Caregiver Rights Litigation Project, the new database and surveillance system could cost Colorado up to $4 million to set up.
The Instituteâ€™s originally proposed emergency rules would havebanned the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, CDPHE, from revealing the confidential registry to other agencies, kept track of who accessed the registry and contained the patient list to a single computer that could not be linked to the Internet or any outside networks.
But on Wednesday, after hearing public testimonies from concerned citizens, the Board of Health concluded there was no need for emergency rule making.
â€œThe board will typically set rulemaking for a future meeting,â€ said Mark Salley, the communications director for the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. â€œThat way it gives a window for public comment.â€
Despite dismissing the CTIâ€™s petition on the grounds that it wasnâ€™t an emergency, the Board of Health agreed to convene again for an informational meeting on Feb. 16.
According to Salley, the CDPHE is working toward a system that could exchange information while remaining confidential.
â€œIt (losing confidentiality) would cause problems with people wanting to get their card. I mean, just like anything else, people donâ€™t want their name out in the open,â€ said Drew Brown, the owner of Abundant Healing, a local medical marijuana dispensary and integrated health facility.
â€œThey just need to protect patientâ€™s rights,â€ Brown added.
As of now, if law enforcement needs to verify the status of a medical marijuana cardholder, they must contact the CDPHE. But, according to Salley, the department is now looking for a way to have an electronic database that could be checked by law enforcement while prohibiting them from abusing the non-confidential registry.
â€œWeâ€™re very conscious of requirements of confidentiality and we intend to remain confidential,â€ Salley said.
Senior Reporter Erin Udell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org._