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Colorado Gov. Hopeful: Pot Smokers Are Gaming the Medical Marijuana System

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Colorado Gov. Hopeful: Pot Smokers Are Gaming the Medical Marijuana System

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Business Doug Robinson, a nephew of former GOP Presidential candidate Mitt Romney, thinks Colorado pot smokers are just getting their medical marijuana cards to beat the taxes.

MODERATOR: The last time we talked, you said that you thought a significant portion of the Coloradans who hold a medical marijuana card are gaming the system and don’t really need them.

ROBINSON: … You know, before we legalized marijuana, there were about 6,000 people on the medical marijuana registry… Today, there’s over 100,000… Just go and Google it online, and there’s so many ads for ‘save money, don’t pay taxes, come and get a medical red card.’

Robinson offers some suggestions about amending the medical marijuana system so that a patient is required to get a recommendation from a doctor with whom they have a prior relationship. This is a supposedly to prevent patients’ use of so-called “pot docs” – clinics that specialize in granting medical marijuana recommendations.

This, indeed, may have the effect of making it more difficult for the phony patient to acquire the red card that confers a marijuana tax break. But it will also have the effect of condemning some truly legitimate patients to shopping in the more-expensive recreational market or the less-safe-and-reliable unregulated market.

Not all doctors who wish to recommend cannabis can do so. Many work for clinics or hospitals with government contracts that forbid recommendation. Some work for the government through the VA or accept government reimbursements like Medicaid. Others have insurance considerations or even the disapproval of colleagues to deal with. Those may be the doctors with whom the legitimate patient has a prior relationship, but they cannot help their patients.

That’s where the “pot doc” comes in. They are as apt to recommend marijuana for the unquestionably deserving patients as the borderline qualifying patients. They know cannabis is remarkably safe and non-toxic, they’ve seen the medical charts of their patients, so why not make the recommendation? They also know that specialist doctors who can’t be counted on to recommend cannabis to nearly everyone who qualifies will be replaced by ones who do.

This is the primary problem of dividing pot smokers into groups of “healthy enough to tax” and “sick enough to exempt:” the heaviest-consuming healthy ones are strongly incentivized to fake being sick. So much so that it’s worth the tax break to go to the expense and the trouble. You can only filter those folks out of the system by setting a bar higher to clear than the savings are worth. But setting the bar that high guarantees that medical marijuana is out of reach for some of the truly sick people for whom it was intended.

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