It was one of the several new regulations discussed on Tuesday when more than one hundred people showed up to testify at the hearing in front of the Senate Local Government and Energy Committee.
The committee took testimony until after midnight Tuesday night.
The large crowd packed into the old Supreme Court chambers inside the Capitol.
Most of those involved in the debate agree there needs to be regulations on the industry. Lawmakers are trying to determine how to make sure any regulation ensures medical marijuana for the chronically-ill patients Colorado voters said should get it.
Two bills have been working their way through the legislature since lawmakers came back to work in January. One bill deals with the doctors prescribing medical marijuana and the patients who can get it.
A different proposal targets how it is distributed.
Sen. Chris Romer (D-Denver) is the sponsor of House Bill 1284. In addition to the age restriction, it would also require dispensaries to pay fees to cover the cost of their regulation.
"We need to contain this. We need to put guardrails on it. So it's time for us to bring common-sense rules, which means this will truly return it to the intent of the voters," Romer said.
University of Colorado student Andrew Orr was one of those who came to speak on Tuesday. Orr is 20 years old and started using medical marijuana after he broke his back a few years ago.
"If I were restricted from accessing my medical marijuana and having someone else get it for me, it would put an immense burden upon my life and my school work," Orr said.
Romer addressed Orr's predicament.
"They clearly are going to be able to find a caregiver to help them. I just don't think people under the age of 21 should be able to go into a medical marijuana shop," he said.
Under Romer's bill, dispensaries would also have to be licensed by both state and local governments to stay in business. Cities and counties could vote to ban dispensaries from opening within their boundaries.
"There's some language in there that would allow towns, municipalities to ban dispensaries. People get sick in every corner of this state and they deserve to have safe and convenient access to medical marijuana. Banning a dispensary is the same as banning a pharmacy and patients shouldn't be treated as second class citizens and have to get on a bus out of town to get the medicine they need," Brian Vicente with Sensible Colorado said.
Dispensaries would also not be allowed within 1,000 feet of schools.
Owners would have to pass criminal background checks, and anyone convicted of a felony drug crime would be barred from running a dispensary. The rules would even bar anyone who has failed to repay student loans from setting up shop.
"There's lots of concern because lots of people have made a decision to get into this business. It's been kind of the Wild West. Today is the day we begin to get control of the Wild West and it's not going to be your average mom and pop business. It is the controlling, growing and dispensing of a controlled substance which means it needs to be regulated and highly regulated," Romer said.
Dispensaries would have to grow 70 percent of the marijuana they sell, a change aimed at making sure pot is being sold as medicine.
Romer also wants to bar anyone who has not lived in Colorado for at least two years from opening a dispensary, and wants to charge dispensaries between $10,000 and $35,000 to apply for a dispensary license, depending on their size.
Josh Stanley is one of those that believes the fees are excessive.
"Based on a $35,000 annual fee, that brings my sales tax up to nearly 29 percent," Stanley said.
"We need to allow mom and pop operations and small businesses in Colorado to thrive. Some of the fees being proposed by Senator Romer would absolutely destroy small business in Colorado and the less small businesses there are, the worse access to medicine patients have," Vicente said.
Walter Rayburn, who owns the Medical Oasis dispensary in Loveland, said he discounts the marijuana he sells and says fees that size would put him out of business.
"There are sick patients who need medicine, and they don't need to pay high prices. They need to be seen by a person who takes an interest in them and not their wallet," he said.
Lawmakers are expected to decide next week whether to send a proposal to ban dispensaries altogether to the November ballot for the general public to vote on.
(KUSA-TV © 2010 Multimedia Holdings Corporation with The Associated Press)