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Home / Articles / News / News /  Lawsuit filed to overturn state medical marijuana laws
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Friday, July 1,2011

Lawsuit filed to overturn state medical marijuana laws

By Boulder Weekly Staff
Medical marijuana proponents filed a complaint in Denver District Court on Thursday seeking to overturn large parts of laws passed by the Colorado legislature over the past two years, claiming they restrict patient access to medicine and violate patient privacy rights guaranteed by the Colorado Constitution. The laws (HB 10-1284 and HB 11-1043) went into effect today.

The Cannabis Therapy Institute said in a news release that the new medical marijuana laws severely restrict caregivers from serving patients by limiting how many patients a caregiver can serve and denying caregivers the right to charge for their services. The lawsuit asks the court for a declaratory judgment on whether the Constitution allows patients to choose any caregiver they wish. The lawsuit also argues that no limits were set on caregivers in the Constitution, and that the patient has the ultimate right to decide who will provide his or her cannabis medicine, according to the release. The full text of the suit can be found at www.CannabisLawsuits.com.

The complaint was filed by Andrew B. Reid, senior counsel for the Denver law firm Springer and Steinberg, P.C. The plaintiffs are Kathleen Chippi, Damien LaGoy, the Patient and Caregiver Rights Litigation Project (PCRLP), the Colorado Patient Alliance, the Rocky Mountain Caregivers Cooperative and the Greenfaith Ministry. The suit is an adaptation of an unsuccessful jurisdiction petition to the Colorado Supreme Court  filed in January by Reid on behalf of Chippi and the PCRLP.

Chippi, a Nederland caregiver and dispensary owner and founding member of the PCRLP, claims that the new laws forced her to abandon her patients and turn her energy into raising money to file the constitutional challenge.

"The constitution allows patients to choose their caregiver,” she said in the release. “The state cannot deny patients their constitutional rights by forcing them to purchase medicine at a retail marijuana store and give up all their confidentiality rights. The patients have a right to pick any compassionate caregiver they choose to provide their cannabis medicine, as long as the caregiver is over 18 and not the patient’s physician. The constitution is very clear on this, and I am confident our judge will agree."

Damien LaGoy, an HIV/AIDS patient, added that he is concerned that the state's new system will replace the confidential registry information with a massive database and surveillance system open to law enforcement and other government agencies. He said he is concerned about the possible theft of his confidential medical information by criminal elements, who may use the information to harm him.

"We went through this 20 years ago with HIV/AIDS patients when the government decided to create a national AIDS database,” LaGoy said in the release. “People were afraid to come out and get tested because they feared their information would be made public. A lot of my friends died because they were afraid to get treatment because they didn't want to get on the list. The same thing is happening now with medical marijuana. I don't want to see patients die because their confidentiality is no longer protected and they are afraid to get their medicine."

Rico Colibri, spokesperson for the Colorado Patient Alliance added, "There has been much talk of compliance with the new regulations, but it is our contention that HB 10-1284 and the resulting rules must be compliant with the Colorado constitution. Just because an MMC applicant was forced to give up their constitutional rights to apply for a license, does not mean a patient has given up their rights."

Attorney Robert J. Corry, Jr., one of the state’s most prominent medical marijuana legal experts, says he will file an amicus brief in support of the lawsuit.

"This lawsuit will give Colorado's suffering medical marijuana patients a fighting chance to obtain their doctor-ordered medicine at a reasonable cost, with a reasonable selection, while protecting their privacy and their constitutional rights,” Corry said in the release. “The massive regulatory regime created by HB 10-1284, HB11-1043 and SB 10-109 is without precedent in America, and it is a violation of the law."

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