(Matilde Campodonico, Associated Press file)

Young patients in limbo after Colorado board’s caregiver vote

The Colorado Board of Health on Tuesday rejected a proposal to cap the number of patients that medical-marijuana caregivers can serve.

But some parents who feared the cap could leave them without a source for the special medical-marijuana oil they use to treat their children still left the meeting in limbo, after state health officials told them they have been obtaining the oil against the law.

“We still have a problem there,” said board member Rick Brown. “We have no ability to affect the bigger issue here today.”

Caregivers are nonprofit marijuana providers who are supposed to give patients personalized attention including growing marijuana for them. State law says caregivers wanting to serve more than five patients at a time must obtain a waiver.

Only 20 caregivers have done so — less than 1 percent of the state’s total — and only four currently serve more than 10 patients, the health department’s proposed limit. Health officials say those caregivers are operating more like small businesses and their large cultivation facilities pose health and public safety risks.

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But the Board of Health rejected the cap at a hearing Tuesday, with several members saying they think a more rigorous waiver process is a better way to address the concerns.

That provided confusing comfort, though, for the roughly two dozen parents who attended the hearing. The families use a special non-psychoactive marijuana oil provided by a Boulder County caregiver named Jason Cranford to treat their children’s severe illnesses. Cranford says he serves more than 80 patients, and the parents worried the cap would leave them without a provider.

“I don’t know how to grow this stuff,” said Wendy Turner, who moved to Colorado from Illinois to treat her son’s Crohn’s disease with the oil. “I would be lost without Jason Cranford.”

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But health officials said at the hearing that parents cannot obtain medical-marijuana for their kids from a separate caregiver at all. Under Colorado law, only the parents of a child medical marijuana patient can be the caregiver for that child, the officials contend. Another area of the law prohibits one caregiver from delegating authority — such as growing marijuana — to another caregiver.

But Dr. Larry Wolk, the head of the health department, said the department doesn’t have enforcement authority to stop the practice.

“It’s confusing,” he said after the hearing. “We have a confusing system.”

John Ingold: 303-954-1068, jingold@denverpost.com or twitter.com/johningold

This story was first published on DenverPost.com