Five years ago tomorrow, on August 6, 2009, Jason Lauve was acquitted in a high-profile medical marijuana case decided on the cusp of the MMJ boom. Since the conclusion of the landmark trial, Lauve is astonished by everything that's happened on the Colorado pot scene. But while he's optimistic about the future for both cannabis and hemp, for which he's become a well-known activist, he acknowledges that not all the changes have been positive.
As we've reported, Lauve broke his back in 2004 after being hit by a snowboarder. He subsequently became a medical marijuana patient under the provisions of Amendment 20, the measure that legalized the concept after being approved by voters in 2000. But in June 2008, he was arrested in Boulder County for allegedly having too much weed -- two pounds, two ounces.
The trial on this charge took place from August 3-6 of 2009, and in the end, Lauve was acquitted after a jury determined that the language of Amendment 20 was vague in regard to how much marijuana was medically necessary.
Would the medical marijuana industry in Colorado have been negatively effected had the ruling gone the other way? Hard to say. But the decision in favor of Lauve was among the earliest indications that Colorado courts would rule in favor of marijuana patients despite cannabis remaining illegal for all uses according to federal law -- something that undoubtedly reassured patients, caregivers and entrepreneurs alike.
In the wake of the ruling, Lauve launched a number of projects, including a publication called Cannabis Health News Magazine and Colorado Patients Out of Time, which, among other things, provided scholarships to cover the cost of a doctor visit and red card for patients in need.
Today, Lauve is in the early stages of a related concept. "The conversations I've been having with patients and caregivers is about some sort of patient-support network," he says. "There are a lot of individual patient groups, but they don't have a cohesive platform for political influence in the state -- and that's one of the big things we need to move forward on."
In addition, he's been promoting hemp on a wide variety of fronts. "On the business side," he notes, "I'm consulting for about fifteen different entities," as well as "25 different hemp farms and various projects having to do with planting and other things." He's also working with local officials to launch an upcoming symposium to further spread the hemp gospel, and he recently spoke at the Denver County Fair "about industrial hemp, farming, production and marketing. And I was really impressed by how much excitement there is out there about it."
He sees more positives in coverage of cannabis issues. In his words, "some things have gotten better, especially in terms of communication. We're seeing more positive stories in the media and the dialogue in the public seems to be very open. I come across a lot of people in my daily routines, and conversations about cannabis are quite prevalent now."
And the negatives?
"Patients seem to have less access nowadays to quality cannabis," he believes. "I think that's as a result of us going recreational. A lot of companies that have been growing over the years have had to mesh into a business model, and patients suffer because of that. So a lot of them have gone to the caregiver market, just like I have. I rarely go to dispensaries, because I find the quality to be better in the caregiver market, the prices to be cheaper -- and to me, the people are more caring than they are at a lot of the dispensaries. I hear patients saying, 'These medtenders don't know what they're talking about. They just want to pump you out the door.'
"That's not all dispensaries," he acknowledges. "But unfortunately, I think they're the exception to the rule."
Clearly, Lauve is on the side of compassion: "Being in service of others is not just a gift. It's fun, too," he says.
We Believe Local Journalism is Critical to the Life of a City
Engaging with our readers is essential to Westword's mission. Make a financial contribution or sign up for a newsletter, and help us keep telling Denver's stories with no paywalls.
Support Our Journalism
As for the anniversary of his trial, Lauve can't help reflecting on what might have been. Had he been convicted, after all, it's entirely conceivable that he could still be in jail.
"It's a blessing," he says, "just to be free."
Send your story tips to the author, Michael Roberts.