Report: Colorado Medical Marijuana Regs Fail to Prevent ‘Diversion’ of Cannabis into Wrong Hands

Marijuana grown for medical purposes in Colorado is making its way to other states and into the hands of people without cards at an alarming rate, reflecting ineffective regulations and lax enforcement, according to a report released today.

The study could be quite damaging to the industry, as government agencies and medical marijuana opponents might use it as justification for a crackdown on MMJ in Colorado. It also strengthens the wide-held perception (true or not) that the medical marijuana industry is rife with corruption and abuse.

The timing of the report is terrible for the MMJ community as well considering it is under assault everywhere it turns.

The study – conducted by Rocky Mountain High-Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas (HIDTA), an arm of the U.S. Office of National Drug Control Policy – examined more than 70 public records. The cases involved patients, caregivers and dispensaries allegedly selling or providing medical marijuana in violation of Colorado’s MMJ laws. It identified 23 states where marijuana grown for medical purposes in Colorado was discovered.

In some cases, people busted for marijuana possession in other states claimed they obtained the cannabis via back-door sales at Colorado dispensaries. In other cases, those caught had medical marijuana cards or worked at dispensaries and planned to sell the stash elsewhere.

Some examples:

– “In July 2011, Kansas Highway Patrol stopped a vehicle traveling from Ft. Collins, Colorado to Richmond, Virginia. During the search of the vehicle troopers found 9.5 pounds of marijuana. The driver stated he rounded up the marijuana from different dispensaries in Ft. Collins.”

– “In March 2010, a Nebraska State Trooper stopped a vehicle traveling on Interstate 80. The driver stated he worked in a Colorado marijuana dispensary. A cooler was found in the trunk of the vehicle with 35.8 pounds of individually packaged marijuana edibles. The packaging on the edibles read ‘for medicinal purposes only.’”

– “In 2011, the West Metro Drug Task Force investigated a Denver-area dispensary for the shipment of ‘medical’ marijuana outside of the state of Colorado. An undercover officer, who claimed to be from Pennsylvania, arranged a deal with the owners of the dispensary to purchase 200 pounds of marijuana for distribution outside of Colorado.”

Additionally, police in Kansas, Illinois and states on the East Coast say they have seen a significant increase in the amount of marijuana traced back to Colorado. These examples show that Colorado is becoming a “source state” for marijuana, the report surmises, fueled in large part by the MMJ industry.

“There is evidence that Colorado’s regulations are not working and ‘medical’ marijuana is being diverted for recreational purposes,” the report says. The study also quotes the Denver field division of the Drug Enforcement Administration as saying that Colorado’s medical marijuana infrastructure “allows for widespread exploitation and illicit marijuana distribution,” adding that the state is on track “to become a primary source of supply for high-grade marijuana throughout the country.”

The HIDTA points out that the study was small in scale and is not comprehensive. But it added that there was a relatively high number of cases of marijuana being “diverted,” indicating that the problem is much bigger than expected.

You can bet the industry will poke holes in the report. And such efforts might be successful to some degree, given the limited scope of the study. Also, you have to put it in context: How often does this happen with other pharmaceuticals? You could probably find thousands of examples of people selling or providing prescribed drugs to those who shouldn’t have them.

But the examples given in the report – and the sheer number of them – will likely be used to fuel the anti-MMJ fire in Colorado and elsewhere, even if the study itself is questionable.