Even the grandest project depends on the success of the smallest components. Or in the more common vernacular “the devil is in the details.”

At Value Pharmacists, we spend time reading legislation. As a lobbyist, Val has fine-tuned proposed language numerous times through the years to reach consensus and move bills toward passage. When we review pending legislation, we perceive the precise meanings.

In this post, we hope to add to your understanding of the legislative process so you can ask pointed questions or answer authoritatively to support enactments in your locale.

Consider two of our favorite examples. When you’re advised there is pending legislation that may benefit pharmacists – listen! Be alert to the details. Then act!

Shall or May

Two common words, “shall” and “may”, are scattered throughout the Colorado Revised Statutes (CRS) and U.S. law. Both are conspicuous to policy wonks. Here’s an example:

No person shall act in the capacity of a paid river outfitter or advertise or represent himself or herself as a river outfitter in this state without first obtaining a river outfitter’s license in accordance with rules prescribed by the commission.

….  The commission may offer licenses that differ in the length of their terms…

The “shall” in the first sentence indicates an individual operating as an outfitter without the proper license is in violation of CRS. Violators have broken the law.

The “may” in the second sentence connotes flexibility and the possibility that there is not a single mandate. Comme ci comme ça. There is an indifference to the length of the license terms.


Legislators don’t address all the details. They leave the majority of the nitty-gritty to boards, commissions, delegations, panels or even an individual secretary. Did you catch the “how to become a licensed river outfitter” in the quoted statute? Yes, its via the “rules prescribed by the commission.”

If pending legislation states “the board may promulgate rules”, what is the defined effect? We don’t know and won’t know until the commission or board effects the rules and regulations. An individual representing a specific viewpoint or position, either on the board or with significant influence with the board, may change a profession immeasurably.

In drawing parallels between legislation and the practice of pharmacy, the attention to detail required to “get it right” is just one. Who is attentive to the details affecting your practice? Is there a lobbyist representing your interest?

It’s in the Details

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