Advocacy group files legal challenge to medical marijuana laws


A medical marijuana advocacy group has filed a petition with the Colorado Supreme Court to overturn large parts of the cannabis regulation laws passed by the state Legislature last spring.

According to a press release from the Patient and Caregivers Rights Litigation Project (PCRLP), the “original jurisdiction petition” filed Jan. 5 claims that the laws (HB 1284 and SB 109) restrict patient access to medical marijuana and violate patient privacy rights guaranteed by the state constitution under Amendment 20.

The petition, available at, was filed by Andrew Reid of Springer and Steinberg on behalf of the PCRLP and Kathleen Chippi, a Nederland caregiver and dispensary owner.

“This petition was necessary to stop the state’s blatant attack on fundamental constitutional patient and caregiver rights,” Chippi says in the release. “Coloradans need immediate clarification on rights they enjoyed from 2000 through 2009 and why some of those rights were extinguished by the state Legislature in 2010. Medical marijuana patients are sick of being treated like second-class citizens. Cannabis in Colorado is a constitutional right, just like the right to free speech, and the state has no authority to destroy those rights. I hope that the Supreme Court takes this case out of compassion for the patients, because we have found none in the state legislature, the health department or the Department of Revenue.”

Damien LaGoy, a medical marijuana patient who has been living with HIV/AIDS for 25 years, says the key issue is the state’s plan to replace confidential registry information with a massive database and surveillance system open to law enforcement and other government agencies.

“We went through this 20 years ago with HIV/AIDS patients when the government decided to create a national AIDS database,” LaGoy says 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.”

Mike Saccone, spokesperson for the Colorado Attorney General’s Office, told Boulder Weekly that his office has neither seen nor been served with a copy of the petition, but he says both laws are legally defensible.

“We intend to defend any challenges to HB 1284 and Senate Bill 109,” he says.

According to the PCRLP release, the petition asks the Supreme Court to rule on two questions:

• Do HB 10-1284 and SB 10-109 violate patients’ rights to their medication as secured by the Colorado Constitution?
• Do the information disclosure provisions of HB 10-1284 violate patients’ Constitutional rights to privacy?

The petition also asks the court to overturn the “local option” provision of HB 1284 that allows cities and counties to ban medical marijuana distribution.

“There is no ‘rationality’ in allowing municipalities and counties to regulate to death and ban access of patients to doctor recommended, constitutionally sanctioned, medical marijuana medication while not giving these same local governments authority to similarly regulate and ban far more potent and dangerous, if abused, substances such as pharmaceutical narcotics and alcohol,” the petition states.

The petition also asks the court to rule that it is unconstitutional to give the Department of Revenue or local governments the authority to regulate medical marijuana in any way, according to the release. It also challenges HB 1284’s restrictions on caregivers, such as their ability to serve more than five patients and to make a profit off their business.

The petition also asks the court to rule restrictions on physicians in SB 109 as unconstitutional. SB 109 redefined the definition of a physician “in good standing” to restrict physicians who could recommend medical marijuana, the release states.

The petition asks the court to rule that the confidentiality and privacy provisions of the constitution will be violated by HB 1284’s requirement that medical marijuana centers collect patient information and share it with law enforcement.

“Only last week, a large number of confidential ‘medical marijuana registry forms with all these people’s personal information on each one of those sheets’ was found by happenstance by a passerby in a box by an alleyway trash bin behind a medical marijuana dispensary,” Reid says in the release. “There is an additional confidentiality concern in regards to medical marijuana because its possession and cultivation and acquisition may still be illegal under federal law although legal under state law. Patients who are ‘outed’ as users of medical marijuana, although legal and constitutional, risk losing their freedom, health insurance coverage, government benefits, college tuition loans and grants, employment, children and other such harms.”

The petition states, “The right of qualified medical marijuana patients to their medication to ease their suffering is now enshrined in our Constitution. Certain legislators, even a majority of them, or a majority of voters in some communities, may want to second guess medical experts and the People of their State and disagree with the limited and highly controlled use of marijuana as a physician recommended medication by fellow citizens and residents diagnosed with debilitating medication conditions. But, that does not give these ‘representatives’ nor the majorities of limited geographical areas of the State the right to veto the will of the People or deny the fundamental constitutional rights of others, anymore than the majority can silence free speech, or take one’s liberty or property or life or health without due process of law.”