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Before it's law, medical-marijuana bill already triggering challenges
    #425883 - 05/30/10 03:11 AM (13 years, 9 months ago)

Before it's law, medical-marijuana bill already triggering challenges

Even before Gov. Bill Ritter has signed into law new rules for Colorado's medical-marijuana industry, the next moves in the ongoing chess match of cannabis regulation and adaptation are already taking shape.

Last week, a team of attorneys who specialize in medical-marijuana cases met with several dozen potential plaintiffs in preparing a lawsuit to challenge the rules as unconstitutionally restrictive.

At the other end of the spectrum, prosecutors and others who believe the legislature overstepped its authority in liberalizing marijuana regulations were pondering their legal options.

City councils that have been unreceptive to medical-marijuana dispensaries began taking steps to formally ban them — something the new rules would allow them to do.

Meanwhile, dispensary owners and independent marijuana growers engaged in a mad scramble for dance partners to comply with the rules' requirement that dispensaries grow at least 70 percent of the marijuana they sell.

The rules — spelled out in House Bill 1284 and Senate Bill 109 — require dispensaries to be licensed at the state and local levels.

Dispensary owners must pass a criminal-background check and have lived in the state for two years, with some exceptions. Local governments or voters can ban dispensaries but not small-scale caregivers, who could serve no more than five medical-marijuana patients.

Lawyer and medical-marijuana advocate Jessica Corry said the five-patient caregiver limit, the residency requirement for dispensary owners and the option for local dispensary bans are "an incredible slap in the face to the (state) constitution."

Corry is one of the attorneys who have been meeting with medical-marijuana patients and dispensary owners to put together a lawsuit challenging the rules.

If that lawsuit materializes, it could have company in the courts from a challenge that questions whether dispensaries are even legal.

Adams County District Attorney Don Quick said dispensary opponents may look at tacking on a counterclaim to any lawsuit that dispensary advocates file.

Quick said Amendment 20, the voter-approved measure that created the state's medical-marijuana system, did not give lawmakers the authority to allow commercial dispensaries.

"This is (lawmakers) rebalancing the line the citizens approved in 2000, and they don't have the right to do that," Quick said.

Other cities act

A number of local governments have wasted no time in responding to the new rules.

In a study session last week, Greenwood Village's City Council instructed city staffers to draft an ordinance banning dispensaries, said Ryan Greg ory, the assistant to the city manager.

Friday, Aurora's City Council took the first step toward putting a ballot question banning dispensaries before voters in November.

Boulder County's planning commission gave an OK to a set of regulations governing where dispensaries and marijuana-growing facilities could locate in the county.

The frenzy of moves has been dizzying to dispensary owners, who have until July 1 to apply for a local license and Sept. 1 to prove they are growing 70 percent of the marijuana they sell.

Laurel Alterman, the owner of AlterMeds in Louisville, said the uncertain local regulations have made it nearly impossible to know if the plans she is making now to comply with state rules will hold up in a few months.

"We are really, really scrambling right now," she said. "There are so many layers to this."


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