In January, we told you about Plants 4 Life, a Castle Rock dispensary the town attempted to shut down via an emergency ordinance despite granting it a license to operate. Now, attorney Rob Corry has sent the city formal notice that, sans a resolution, he'll file suit, with damage claims that could be in the $5 million range.
Corry stresses that the die is not cast when it comes to a suit.
"We still are interested in possibly resolving the case without litigation," he says. "We'd much rather have the city reconsider their decision" to ban dispensaries in the town limits. "Only one city council member needs to change his vote and we would win 4-3, so it's a very close call."
He adds that "the initial vote was 7-0, but some members of the council visited Plants 4 Life, talked to patients and changed their mind."
His argument in favor of more switches now turns on the sort of home grows that would crop up without an authorized retail operation.
"The real question from a public-policy perspective is, 'Do you want a proliferation of home-based, totally unregulated and untaxed resale operations? Or do you want it to be regulated, so the government knows where it is and can deal with it?'"
This is an interesting line of attack, particularly given the ongoing discussion in Denver City Council about limiting the number of plants allowed for home grows. Should such an ordinance pass, Corry believes it would be "completely unenforceable, because there is no mechanism in place where the government gets to go into a person's home and inspect the number of plants. In fact, there's no mechanism in place where the government even gets to know who's growing and who isn't. Denver can pass all the laws it wants, but enforcing them is an entirely different matter."
Nevertheless, "Denver is different from Castle Rock," Corry notes. "Denver allows retail operations, and there are many of them. But if Castle Rock bans dispensaries, there won't be any alternatives. We have a constitutional right to grow and dispense medical marijuana in homes, and that's going to happen whether or not there are retail operations. But it's pretty obvious that if there is a regulated retail operation, that will be the principal supplier, wherever it is."
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Plants 4 Life can continue to operate at least until December 31, when the ordinance is scheduled to go into effect. And Corry hopes that during the intervening months, officials will reconsider their position.
"One council member said he believed the cost of developing regulations would be higher than the cost of banning it, but I think he was simply miscalculating the cost of litigation and the negative impact on these unregulated home-based operations that are going to be increasing in Castle Rock," he maintains. "The family-friendly mantra was used as a justification for a ban, but I think the truly family-friendly approach would be to regulate it and put it in the retail sector, where the government knows about it, instead of putting it in residential neighborhoods, where they can't touch it. And that goes for every municipality."
Page down to read Corry's notice to Castle Rock officials, which he also copied to Governor Bill Ritter and members of the Colorado general assembly:
Dear Governor, General Assembly, Mayor and Town Council:
This is the required notice of intent to sue pursuant to C.R.S. § 24-10-109.
Claimants are as follows: Numerous Medical Marijuana patients; Amber Ostrom, Owner, Plants 4 Life, LLC; Tracy Snipes, Owner, Plants 4 Life, LLC; Plants 4 Life, LLC, all at 121 North Wilcox Street, Castle Rock, CO 80104.
The factual basis for the claim is that in late 2009 Plants 4 Life obtained all necessary Town approvals to provide Medical Marijuana to patients in Castle Rock, and did so safely and legally for months without a single negative incident. On September 14, 2010, the Town Council, by a slim 4-3 majority, passed an ordinance banning Medical Marijuana Centers within the Town, effective December 31, 2010, which will deprive Medical Marijuana patients their medicine and deprive Plants 4 Life its business and property rights. Some members of the Town Council cited Colorado House Bill 10-1284 as state statutory authority to ban Medical Marijuana-related businesses in the Town. The Town of Castle Rock previously accepted sales tax revenue from Plants 4 Life, LLC. Certain Town council members cited the cost of developing regulations as a reason to eliminate this functional business, although litigation might cost more than developing reasonable regulations and since the Town had an offer from me to assist it in developing regulations free of charge to the Town. Another town council member formerly employed Amber Ostrom, and in this personal capacity has been speaking negatively to former customers, employees, and other parties regarding Ms. Ostrom and Plants 4 Life.
Names and addresses of public employees involved are the Mayor and Town Council of Castle Rock, 100 North Wilcox Street, Castle Rock, CO 80104; Colorado Governor, State Capitol, Denver, CO 80202; Colorado General Assembly, State Capitol, Denver, CO 80202.
The nature and extent of the injury is that suffering Medical Marijuana patients will be unable or unreasonably burdened in obtaining their physician-recommended medicine, they will be forced to obtain medicine (if at all) in unsafe, unregulated, and faraway locations, their pain and suffering will increase as a result; there will be a growth in unregulated and untaxed home-based growing and caregiving operations in Castle Rock's residential neighborhoods in close proximity to families and children; and Plants 4 Life, LLC was denied its vested property rights previously granted to operate a business, which it reasonably relied upon and accordingly invested time and capital to establish its location in the Town of Castle Rock. To the extent H.B. 10-1284 purports to authorize banning constitutionally-protected right to Medical Marijuana codified at the Colorado Constitution, Article XVIII § 14, and an uncompensated taking of private property for public use, that statute is unconstitutional on its face and as applied in this case.
The amount of monetary damages is difficult to estimate at this time, but the long-term value of this business in terms of corporate balance sheets and anticipated growth is at least $5,000,000.00. It is difficult to place a price tag on the pain and suffering the innocent patients will experience in being denied a safe source of medicine.
Please contact me with questions. Thank you for your prompt attention to this matter.
Robert J. Corry, Jr.
cc: Colorado Attorney General (via Certified Mail) Castle Rock Town Attorney (via Certified Mail)