Colorado 420 Coalition invites public to attend medical-marijuana appeal hearing

At 1:30 p.m. tomorrow at the Colorado Court of Appeals, oral arguments will be presented in the matter of Stacy Clendenin, a medical-marijuana patient and provider who's appealing her 2006 conviction for felony possession and distribution of ganja -- and the folks at the Colorado 420 Coaltion, an organization devoted to "promoting cannabis re-legalization for medicinal, industrial and personal use," would like as many members of the public to attend as possible. It's an unusual strategy: Shows of mass support aren't supposed to sway the judiciary. But as Westword's Joel Warner has documented in features such as February's "Medical Marijuana Has Become a Growth Industry in Colorado" and this month's "Ganjapreneurs are Cashing In on Colorado's Booming Medical Pot Business," the vagueness of current laws has led to plenty of changes in the way the issue's been handled in the past three years -- and the Coalition crew obviously hopes that bodes well for Clendenin's challenge.

Look below for more information about the hearing, including links to briefs submitted by lawyer Rob Corry and Colorado Attorney General John Suthers.

Colorado Court of Appeals Hears Medical Cannabis Case

Tuesday, Sept. 22, 2009 Oral Arguments 1:30 pm Open to the Public: Supporters are encouraged to attend

Where: Colorado Court of Appeals 2 E. 14th Ave., Third Floor, Denver (On 14th and Broadway across from the State Capitol) List of Briefs

• Opening Brief by Rob Corry

• Government Brief by Attorney General

• Reply Brief by Rob Corry

• Supplemental Brief by Rob Corry

Denver -- On Sept. 22, the Colorado Court of Appeals will hear oral arguments in one of the first appeals concerning a medical cannabis conviction in Colorado. One of the key issues in this appeal is whether a person can act as a "primary caregiver" for a patient without having met the patient in person. Stacy Clendenin, a medical cannabis patient and caregiver, was convicted of felony possession and distribution of marijuana in October 2006 in Boulder County. Stacy served as a cannabis primary caregiver for multiple patients. The trial court ruled that none of Stacy's patients would be allowed to testify in court if they did not have personal contact with Stacy while she was serving as their caregiver. Stacy was convicted by a jury on all charges.

Rob Corry, one of the state's top experts on medical cannabis law, is asking the Court of Appeals to overturn Ms. Clendenin's conviction on several grounds. Article XVIII, Section 14 of the Colorado Constitution (Colorado's Medical Marijuana Law) defines "primary caregiver" simply as a person having "significant responsibility for managing the well-being of a patient." Corry argues that there is no Constitutional provision or law that requires the primary caregiver to have face-to-face contact with the patient and that the trial court erred by making an arbitrary decision to prevent patient witnesses from testifying. Corry will argue that Ms. Clendenin had significant responsibility for the well-being of several patients, all of whom should have been allowed to testify to the jury.

"An analogy is a pharmacist who dispenses medicine manufactured by a drug company: there is no need for the individuals who produce the medicine at a drug company far away to personally meet the patients who ultimately use the medicine," Corry writes in his opening brief. "Any contrary rule unreasonably restricts a beneficial, life-saving medicine from those who need it to survive but who are incapable of producing it on their own, and unreasonably punishes those like Ms. Clendenin who generously help suffering people."

The Colorado State Board of Health recently supported Corry's interpretation of the law, in new rules adopted on July 20, which state that "significant responsibility" could mean simply providing a patient with medical marijuana.

Rob Corry will also ask the Court of Appeals to review other issues from Ms. Clendenin's trial, including the validity of the search warrant and the denial of the "end user" defense by the trial court.

KEEP WESTWORD FREE... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts