Colorado's governor has approved new rules for marijuana. He's done that amid a national discussion over pot's evolving role in this country, and we're covering that role this week in our series The New Marijuana. And in a moment, we'll hear a radio station that makes itself an early warning system in the drug war.


First, Colorado's new rules focus on medical marijuana. Local governments will now have the option of banning dispensaries. Another measure says doctors who recommend marijuana have to show they actually examined their patients. NPR's Jeff Brady reports from Denver.

JEFF BRADY: Just about every neighborhood in Denver has a dispensary - maybe two or three. East of downtown Denver is The Lowry Leaf. Inside, that heavy marijuana smell hangs in the air as one of the owners, Kenneth Adler, shows me around.

Mr. KENNETH ADLER (Owner, The Lowry Leaf): You'll see all different bottles of strains of marijuana for different purposes.

BRADY: Adler's been in business for three months, and he has mixed feelings about the new laws in Colorado. He likes that they lend an air of legitimacy to his business, but he worries more regulation will put up roadblocks for patients.

Mr. ADLER: If they make it more and more difficult for patients to be hooked up with their caregivers and obtain their medicine, then the people will just give up and go back to the streets.

BRADY: One of the laws says doctors who recommend pot for patients have to actually examine them and have a bona fide doctor-patient relationship. The second law allows local governments or voters through a local initiative to ban dispensaries and large growing operations all together. This is what medical marijuana advocates like Brian Vicente of Sensible Colorado seem most worried about.

Mr. BRIAN VINCENT (Sensible Colorado): We think a community should have no more right to ban a dispensary as they should to ban pharmacies. You know, we're talking about access to medicine for sick people, and we don't think communities should be able shut that off.

BRADY: Already, several city councils have started the process of banning dispensaries - among them, the ski resort town of Vail.

Speaking on a scratchy telephone line from the mountain town, Mayor Dick Cleveland says medical marijuana isn't the high-end image Vail is looking for.

Mayor DICK CLEVELAND (Vail, Colorado): We thought that this ran counter to the marketing and all the things that we've done. You know, we're primarily a destination resort.

BRADY: Advocates say if Vail does bar dispensaries, they'll just put the issue before Vail voters in November. They're also threatening to challenge community bans in court.

Jeff Brady, NPR News, Denver.

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