October 27 2009, 11:30 AM
Following the Justice Department's announcement last week that it will not seek to prosecute the users and providers of medical marijuana so long as they follow state law, local officials are increasingly looking for ways to intervene themselves. The executive director of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, James B. Martin, says the explosion of new patients represents "an abuse of the system," writes The New York Times. Specifically, Martin claims many young men in their early 20s are going to a small handful of doctors and complaining of severe or chronic pain, the first step in applying for state cards that allow them to receive medical pot. "It is exceedingly unlikely that there's an epidemic of chronic pain among young male adults," Martin says. Nearly 75 percent of the 10,003 marijuana permits issued come from just 15 doctors; about 25 percent of the total were issued by just one doctor. Meanwhile, city-code-enforcement officials in Colorado Springs hope to use land-use regulations on the grounds that medical marijuana dispensaries violate federal law, making marijuana illegal, according to the Gazette. Although the undertaking would prove extremely difficult for the sprawling city's three code-enforcement officers, the move would make dispensing marijuana in that city a risky business investment. But can municipalities really crack down this way? That's the question posed by Westword, which points out that the state of Colorado, not local governments, is vested with regulating medical marijuana and that state health officials have recently said "local government business regulations may be preempted."