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Sean Paige Headshot

Sorry, No Pulitzer

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Investigative reporting has come a long way -- a long way down -- since the Watergate era. But today's ink-stained sleuths have found one sure way to generate a scandalous scoop -- sending an undercover reporter out to score some medical marijuana.

I thought just about every paper in Colorado had done this story by now. It's become a cliché. But last week it was the Pueblo Chieftain's turn. The reporter was dispatched to Colorado Springs in search of the story, since the Steel City has a temporary ban on dispensaries and the writer supposedly feared that her cover would be blown if she tried to infiltrate those operating in Pueblo West.

So what did the reporter find? She found what most other reporters have: that it's not hard to get a medical marijuana "red card" if one follows the path of least resistance and searches out a less scrupulous provider. The reporter could have sought a referral from doctors who won't see younger patients and weren't available to make on-the-spot assessments. But what kind of story would that make? She instead struck "pay dirt" (in her own words) by chancing upon a dispensary that seems, from her description, to operate in a less above-board fashion.

The full account of her medical marijuana hunting "expedition" can be read here. It's a decent piece of reporting, which ought to make many in the industry cringe. But I'm not sure any of it is "news."

Reporters (and would-be MMJ patients) searching out fly-by-night dispensaries can find them. But the reverse is also true: bona fide patients can go to more credible doctors, and better caregivers, if they choose to. The existence of less-reputable dispensaries isn't a reason to discredit all dispensaries, any more than the existence of prescription drug abuse and medical malpractice should discredit all prescription drugs, or the doctors who prescribe them.

A sidebar piece profiles several doctors who make MMJ referrals. Both docs acknowledge that some of the people they see might be pulling a fast one. But that's not unheard of in the medical field at large. I have a good friend who is doing prison time because of an addiction to prescription pain killers that spun out of control. He received most of his supply from legitimate doctors, responding, in good faith, to his seemingly endless variety of maladies and complaints.

It's a little Wild West out there at the moment, no question. Good dispensary owners are vying with not-so-good ones for patients, some of which may be less-than-honest. But that's why we need to hurry-up and get some standards in place at the state and local level. I don't support the "just say no" approach some cities (including Pueblo) have taken, because medical marijuana use has been legal in the state for 10 years and I think it's time we dealt with it. The sooner we deal with it -- the sooner we bring the industry out of the shadows and into the light -- the sooner we'll be able to curb any abuses of the law that are taking place.

That's why a number of us on the Colorado Springs City Council are determined to move forward on the draft medical marijuana ordinance now before us, despite 11th-hour efforts to derail the progress we've made. Delaying action, or refusing to act, will only prolong the Wild West situation and allow the number of bad actors to grow.