Last July, as we've reported, Joseph Hopper and twelve others associated with Hoppz' Cropz stores in Colorado Springs were indicted for alleged illegal distribution of marijuana (nearly 200 pounds' worth) in a variation on the sort of "free" pot giveaway schemes that date back to the days before and just after the launch of legal recreational cannabis sales in the state. Now, Rob Corry, Hopper's attorney, has filed a motion to dismiss the charges based on a technicality — specifically, that Colorado Attorney General Cynthia H. Coffman isn't licensed to practice law in the state under the name listed in the document. And he's right.
Annie Skinner, spokesperson for Coffman, declined to comment on the case beyond stressing via email that "the Attorney General is absolutely licensed to practice law in Colorado. She is registered under her maiden name, which is the 'H' in Cynthia H. Coffman."
Prior to her marriage to Representative Mike Coffman, from whom she split in 2017 after twelve years, the attorney general, who's currently running for governor, was known as Cynthia Honssinger, and it's under this moniker that she's registered on the Colorado Supreme Court website. But that still makes the Hopper document inaccurate, Corry maintains. In an email to Westword, Corry states that he is "seeking dismissal of these charges due to the Attorney General not being admitted to practice law under the name she uses on the indictment."
Corry's motion to dismiss and the original indictment are accessible below.
Regarding the free-marijuana concept, we first reported about it in the February 4, 2013, post "Marijuana for Free on Craigslist? Maybe With a Donation — or as a Bonus for Another Purchase." One ad that appeared around that time under the business name "Bud's Worm Farm" offered an eighth of marijuana in exchange for paid "sponsorship" of one hundred red wiggler worms. Another page, titled "Fresh and Cured Hash," touted "$60 gram for BHO and $40g for Full melt." However, the items were not for sale. "I ask [for] donations for my time, energy, the ability to grow the plant, then make oils, the cost of butane and ice for hash," the item read. Another section announced that the deal is "Amendment 64 & 20 compliant," in reference to the constitutional measures that legalized limited recreational weed sales and medical marijuana, respectively.
The following day, on February 5, we discovered a page that took this idea even further, giving away "free" weed with the purchase of a $50 bumpersticker from a company dubbed legalchronicdelivery.com.
Here's a look at the sticker:
Just how legal was this service? Well, shortly after the publication of our story, the website disappeared — and by mid-February, then-Colorado attorney general John Suthers and Denver Police Chief Robert White jointly declared such deals to be unlawful.
But after January 1, 2014, when Amendment 64 was put into effect, the free-marijuana notion rushed back into the marketplace, as we reported later that month in "'Free' Marijuana Deals Budding on Denver Craigslist." Here's the text from one ad during that period:
THUNDERF*CK — $40 (DENVER)
I have high quality strains for free for an appropriate donation for gas, time, and effort.
Thunderfuck LA Confidential X Tangerine
All top shelf quality.
I am Amendment 64/20 compliant.
So I can only give you medicine if your are 21+ or a red card holder.
Call or text.
Price for gas, time, and effort as follows:
The Hoppz' Cropz indictment alleges a more sophisticated approach to "free" marijuana.
According to the document, Hopper, aka "Joey Hops," Dara Wheatley, nicknamed "Boss Lady," and alleged conspirators Adam Donaldson, Joseph Sergio Crivici, Derrick Bernard, Victoria Fernandez, Marcee Smith, Alejandra Gonzalez, Nathan Bernheisel, Raylene Rubio, Nicole Sandoval, Ashley Hefner and Melissa Colmus "engaged in a scheme whereby the members conspired to purchase medical marijuana from licensed facilities and resell it for profit under the guise the marijuana was being offered as a free giveaway with the purchase of a dramatically overpriced, yet low cost, item."
One example: Customers were supposedly charged $15 for a lighter worth only a few pennies — and as a bonus, they were provided with a gram of "free" marijuana that just happened to be valued at around $15.
The indictment goes on to say that "in essence, the enterprise possessed and distributed marijuana — and conspired to do the same — in Colorado Springs, Colorado while simultaneously engaging in tax evasion, money laundering, attempts to influence public servants, filing false tax information and failing to pay over taxes."
Why bother with such an approach post-Amendment 64 implementation? One possible reason is noted on the Visit Colorado Springs website: "Many cities and counties within Colorado have chosen not to allow the retail sale of marijuana within their jurisdiction's limits. This includes Colorado Springs and El Paso County as well as Teller County."
As for Corry's motion to dismiss, it reads in part: "A review of the Colorado Supreme Court records of licensed attorneys in Colorado shows that there is no person named Cynthia Coffman licensed to practice law in the State of Colorado."
The motion adds: "The indictment in this case, which brings criminal charges under the name of a lead prosecutor not licensed nor admitted to practice law in the name Cynthia Coffman by the Colorado Supreme Court, is materially and substantively defective, and should be dismissed."
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When asked for more details about these claims, Corry begins by striking a blow against the prosecution of Hopper and company. In his words, "It is unfortunate that in 2018, even after all of Colorado's alleged progress on marijuana reform, good people still face the possibility of prison for victimless acts that harmed not a single person.... This case is nothing about justice or making the community safer. It is 100 percent a greedy tax grab by the State, which is really the ultimate drug kingpin, demanding its cut of every gram of marijuana in Colorado, under the point of a gun."
Moreover, he goes on, "If the State seeks to deprive my clients of their freedom, it should be accountable, accurate and truthful. False statements made in an indictment can render it defective."
Corry's strategy is the longest of shots, but success could have a far-reaching impact. If he emerges victorious, attorneys in other cases could presumably challenge every indictment on which Cynthia Coffman's name appears as a prosecutor. But when asked about that possibility in a follow-up email, AG office spokesperson Skinner did not respond.
Click to read the Joseph Hopper motion to dismiss regarding Cynthia Coffman and the Hoppz' Cropz indictment.